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Obama as Incumbent

There is a certain shrewdness to the McCain campaign's effort to turn Obama's strengths -- the energy he excites in crowds, the historic nature of his candidacy and the interest he has created overseas -- into weaknesses.

"They're trying to make lemonade out of a lemon," said one Democratic strategist who is not working for the Obama campaign. "It's not a bad thing to do, but it's a sign of weakness."

Thus the effort to turn Obama into the incumbent. McCain loses if the race becomes a referendum on Bush. He is running behind on most issues. And he has yet to generate the commitment among those who say they're for him that Obama has inspired among his own supporters.

The one contest McCain can win is an election about Obama. Paradoxically, Obama's imperative at his convention is to reassure voters about who he is while also moving the spotlight off himself.

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