Obama is a gifted politician by anyone’s measure, but what distinguishes him from earlier insurgents is his ability to fully harness the excitement that his candidacy has created, in votes and in dollars. Three forces had to come together for this to happen: the effect of campaign-finance laws in broadening the number and types of people who fund the political process; the emergence of Northern California as one of the biggest sources of Democratic money; and the recognition by a few Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists that the technology and business practices they had developed in their day jobs could have a transformative effect on national politics.

—“The Amazing Money Machine,” by Joshua Green, June 2008

One of the mysteries of this presidential cycle is how the Clinton operation, with its vaunted foresight, failed to see Obama coming … In the spring of 2006, they were still eyeing John Edwards. After Edwards took a far more aggressive policy approach than Team Clinton had anticipated, Hillary Clinton responded by delivering a series of policy speeches, now largely forgotten ... Barack Obama barely registered.

—“Teacher and Apprentice,” by Marc Ambinder, December 2007

Cross-party alliances, once the mainstay of Washington life, are now rare. Yet as today’s presidential candidates call for a less divisive kind of politics, it’s worth recalling the 1950s. While polarization has its drawbacks, the alternative is often worse.

—“The Case for Partisanship,” by Matthew Yglesias, April 2008

As eclectic a reformer as McCain has been in the Senate, he has been consistent in his incrementalism. Though he was known to sound hotheaded on campaign-finance reform, his legislative work produced a reform that was mostly modest in its aims and that mostly attained them. He has been an old-fashioned budget balancer, not a newfangled supply-sider. He defends his global-warming efforts as gradualist and as modeled on emissions-trading systems that have already been tested. In the presidential primaries, he showed little interest in grandiose promises.

—“Mr. Conservative,” by Jonathan Rauch, May 2008

Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us.

—“Goodbye to All That,” by Andrew Sullivan, December 2007

Perhaps “values voters” are disillusioned with politics and ready to turn their backs on it. But Mitt Romney wants you to know that liberty is impossible without religious faith. Perhaps an evangelical crack-up is upon us. But Mike Huckabee surged this winter, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did their God-dances in megachurches and at the debates. This political season has only heightened the confusion over the future of religion in the nation’s culture and politics.

—“Born Again,” by Walter Russell Mead, March 2008

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.