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Biggest leap of faith on earth

UNLESS lightning strikes, Americans will elect Barack Obama in three days’ time and take the biggest gamble in their history.

A man with no experience of government will soon be commander-in-chief, based on little more than ‘trust me’ and a smile.

John McCain’s chances are down to 9-1. So the question being asked is not “will Obama win” but “how on earth did he do it?”

When he hit the campaign trail two years ago, Obama’s message was “change”. Back then, it wasn’t clear that change was needed.

But the real turning point in Obama’s campaign was the collapse of Lehman Brothers, when the financial crisis came into focus.

He made it work for him and against the government — in a way David Cameron and the Tories had abysmally failed to.

In the last few weeks, he campaigned on a policy that makes the Tories squeamish – offering firm tax cuts.

Any family on less than £150,000 a year would get a rebate, he said. Next, he’d offer a tax break on any company taking on staff. He’d pay for it by cutting government waste.

So he was useful, as well as exciting. And last night signs in the battleground state of Virginia had a simple message: Vote Obama for Tax Cuts.

It isn’t that the old warrior John McCain was useless, or fought a bad campaign. He has run Obama amazingly close.

And I still think much of what Obama says is vacuous. But I accept he is a brilliant speaker and a world-class campaigner.

His star power electrifies not just America but the world. Combined with a firm policy — tax cuts — he’s (almost) home and dry.

McCain counters by arguing Obama’s “tax cuts” are welfare in disguise. But Obama makes a clear argument, more than the Tories who struggle with the question: how, precisely, would they help voters?

I sincerely hope that a President Obama would deal a hammer blow to the one of the most malign forces in the world: anti-Americanism. This is a prejudice which strengthens the EU at the expense of Nato. It weakens the West’s resolve, and emboldens rogue states.

Those who claim America is racist will soon have to ask what other country would elect the black son of a single mother as national leader.

What I like about Obama is that he never plays the race card. And America’s self-appointed race campaigners hate him for it. The Rev Jesse Jackson was caught on microphone saying about Obama: “I wanna cut his nuts off”. This from a Baptist minister.

And now what? We’re not quite sure. Obama could be the radical firebrand, as he was when fighting Hillary Clinton. Or act the calm consensus-builder we saw the last few weeks, with his eye on his re-election in four years’ time.

It is said in Britain that financial crisis helps the government because people prefer the devil they know. Yet at a time of war, in a time of recession, it looks like Obama will persuade America to take a chance on him.

How he’ll behave in office is full of unknowns. But one thing we do know for sure. In this election campaign, America has laid on the greatest political show on earth.

With drama, variety, and — most of all — a choice that Britain could only dream of.

 

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