The Big Picture: Democrats

Our internal air traffic controller is asking me to climb and maintain 30,000 feet for a while in order to see how different the ground looks from the last time I was up that high.

(1) The campaign is in 24/7 mode. Mistakes are magnified; compelling performances are magnified; there is very little room for errors of ommission or commission.

(2) For the first time since the cycle began, the press and Barack Obama and John Edwards all followed the same line of argument against Hillary Clinton, and her campaign was clearly knocked off balance for a while. Clinton's position on issues didn't do this to her -- just listen to Barack Obama's Meet the Press performance if you'd like to be less clear about how and where he differs from her -- it's how she responded, in real time, to events.

(3) Barack Obama's speech at Saturday night's Jefferson-Jackson dinner was the best I've ever seen him give. His interview with Tim Russert the next morning was one of the worst I've seen him give. The former matters much more than the latter.

(4) John Edwards's campaign has been holding its breath for months and his standing in Iowa hasn't declined all that much. He's back on the air now with expensive, crafty and risky new commercials. His JJ speech was the second-best of the night. His Iowa organization is still the best. The news media is writing plenty of "Edwards Surging?" stories.

(5) Barack Obama has the money, the talent, and the ego to continue campaigning for president if he loses Iowa and New Hampshire. John Edwards might not.