No, Barack Obama did not land a knockout blow tonight. But he showed that he fully understands that the best defense is a good offense. After weeks of absorbing punishment from John McCain, Obama went on the attack.
Obama's decision to target McCain so closely was a risky strategy, but it paid off.
The contrast with past Democratic candidates such as John Kerry and Michael Dukakis could not have been starker. Obama showed that he does not conform to the image of the Democrat as wussbag by directly assailing McCain's foreign policy credentials -- specifically, his claim that he would "follow" Osama bin Laden to the "gates of hell." But why just follow? As Obama made clear, he needs to be taken out.
The Obama campaign should keep concentrating its firepower on the Bush-McCain foreign policy record. McCain isn't simply a cheerleader for the Iraq War; he helped dream it up. If McCain does select Tom Ridge as his running mate, Ridge's lamentable record running the Homeland Security Department will offer a target-rich environment. Obviously, Joe Biden will take the lead in examining the McCain record in coming weeks, while Obama takes as high a road as he can.
But his performance tonight should silence the doubters about his candidacy. Obama came out fighting tonight. His fluid, tough, and forcefully delivered speech indicates that he will be a formidable and potentially devastating opponent in the fall presidential debates. Anyone who can't see that just doesn't get it.