Candidate: Barack Obama
Political Background: U.S. Senator from Illinois
Campaign Website: http://www.barackobama.com/
Dem Appeal: Dynamic public speaker, pro-abortion, pro-energy conservation and alternative energy development, would support national smoking ban if local bans were accepted by public, anti-torture/anti-Guantanamo, supports drivers licenses to illegals, admires RFK, pro-progressive tax, supports withdrawal from Iraq except small force for counterterrorism purposes, anti-constructionist judiciaries, strong advocate of gay rights, often compared to JFK.
Cross-over Appeal to Republicans: Advocate of transparency in government, does not completely shun evangelicals, pro-NATO strengthening, health care program more moderate than most Dems, strong advocate of more bipartisan relations between the parties, does not want taxes to go above Clinton-era levels.
Cons: Compared to JFK and shares similar lack of experience in federal gov't, has only begun to flesh out policy proposals with details, has been subject to criticism from both social conservatives AND progressives who do not find him "liberal enough", has "all style, no substance" image amongst some voters.
My Personal Thoughts: Right now, Obama is probably my favorite Dem running. Mainly because his rhetoric regarding Republicans isn't nearly as straight-up nasty and ugly compared to his counterparts. While many of his policies are definitely within the realm of hard-line progressive/liberal, he also seems to inspire a sense of change and fresh air amongst the Democrats in the eyes of independents, and has made overtures to make a connection with Republican voters, namely evangelicals.
However, his relative lack of experience loses points with those looking for someone with a long track record. His pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage stances neutralize most (if not all) of the support he potentially could have drawn from the evangelical vote. On top of that, Obama's health care plan is still considered by most fiscal conservatives to be too close to universal and/or socialist in nature. He is also in a very bitter fight, with two other well-known candidates running for the Democratic nomination.
Obama is a dangerous candidate for any politician, Democrat or Republican, to take on. He does have a natural gift for oration, best displayed at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. His themes of "hope" and "promise" resonate loudly with those who are sick of bitter partisanship and/or the status quo in both parties. If Obama can inspire the Democrats to nominate him, he will not be a pushover for any Republican candidate, despite his flaws.