Obama's Debate Tactics Against McCain Recall a Basketball Team Running Out the Clock

Obama was like Dean Smith with a lead. Is he risking blowing it with weeks to go?

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As an ACC basketball fan who's spent years rooting against the evil Tar Heels of North Carolina, I recognize the four-corner offense when I see it.

Too often, when his guys got a modest lead, North Carolina Coach Dean Smith would spread his team to the four corners of the offensive zone and have his point guard freeze the ball, while hostile crowds, who had come to see athletes play basketball, chanted "Bor-ing! Bor-ing!"

And that was Barack Obama last night, dribbling in circles like Phil Ford, sitting on a lead with one eye on the clock.

In the midst of a national crisis, with the country desperate for dynamic leadership, Obama chose to play it safe. Change gave way to caution and complacency.

OK. Perhaps this was a one-night thing. A smart-money play. Why make a stupid mistake that lets John McCain back in the race?

Dean Smith is a certified coaching genius, after all, (and a good Democrat) whose teams won more than 800 games.

Why be concerned? Because, with Obama, we have some history here.

This is a guy who used shrewd tactics to build a lead in the Democratic primaries, then went flat, sucked on his thumb, and barely survived Hillary Clinton's rally at the buzzer.

There is far too much time left in this election for Obama to reprise his spring tuck. You think a 4-point lead in a battleground state can't wither in 20 days?

Obama had some high notes. He's preternaturally gifted, after all. When he looked into the camera and explained his ideas on healthcare reform or drove the stake through the heart of the William Ayers canard, he looked as good as Phil Ford in his glory days, feeding a Tar Heel forward for an uncontested backdoor basket.

But Americans are making a very serious and considered decision to choose a leader who must, simultaneously, rally and unite us, fight two wars, and restore prosperity.

As good as Obama looks on high-def television (and as cruel as the medium is to McCain), I didn't see that leader last night.

There is one sure path for Obama to lose this election. It's the road he started down at Hofstra.

Lest anyone forget, Dean Smith went 2-9 in 11 Final Fours.