I'm far from immune to the widespread sense that Barack Obama is going to have to take on Hillary Clinton a lot more directly if he hopes to snatch the Democratic nomination from her, and I liked Noam's semi-tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Obama should swap campaign strategies with John Edwards.
But I do think this kind of analysis tends to gloss over the salient fact that Barack Obama is a black man. It's all well and good for Edwards, a white Southerner, to appear riled up, confrontational, and even divisive, but it's far from clear that this is a luxury Obama can afford. The minute he allows himself to be pigeon-holed, even briefly, as an "angry black man," his general-election prospects probably take a nose-dive.
I can't imagine that this isn't a crucial part of his calculation--probably now, as he tries to figure out how to challenge Clinton; certainly back when he was developing the vaguely post-racial, post-ideological political persona that has enabled him to come as far as he has. Just as Clinton, as a woman, has the added burden of having to prove to America she's "strong" enough to be president (something, incidentally, she's done a great job of so far), Obama, as a black man, has the added burden of having to prove that he's--to borrow a phrase--a uniter not a divider.