Bmchipsomodevillagetty

If I needed reassurance that this man is the most formidable force in American politics today, his speech tonight confirmed it. It was shrewd - with an artful positioning on Iraq. It was graceful - with respect for McCain's service and Clinton's tenacity. It was brutal - in turning around McCain's Iraq visit meme to domestic economic woes. It was patriotic - in its evocation of Gettysburg and the Second World War. It was outer-directed: not for Obama the recourse to self-satisfied identity politics of the kind used by the Clintons because they often have nothing else. It was moving. I thought I even saw some suggestions of tears as he remembered his grandmother. It was also rhetorically more powerful than McCain - not by a small amount but by a mile. Put McCain's speech against Obama's - and this was a wipe-out. Not a victory. A wipe-out. Rhetorically, they are simply not in the same league. And if the contrast tonight between McCain and Obama holds for the rest of the campaign, McCain is facing a defeat of historic proportions.

One more thing: with McCain's and Clinton's speeches, you could not forget the politics of it. With Obama, you forgot about that at times. You actually lifted your eyes a little and believed a little and hoped a little.

Yes, he can. And anyone who under-estimates that will regret it.

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty.)