Obama or Clinton: Which Can Take On McCain?

'Truly Transformative'
Every now and then, history gives us big moments in politics—moments that offer a transformation, not just a transition. And when these moments come along, the old order always resists. Winston Churchill once compared meeting Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the first time to opening your first bottle of champagne, but the establishment here at home was dubious: in FDR they saw an untested and unelectable patrician with polio. The pundits asked, could West Virginians connect with this New York aristocrat? Would America really elect him? It did—four times.

Twenty-eight years later, the old guard said that Jack Kennedy could not be elected because he was too Catholic and too young. Harry Truman said JFK was unelectable because, to defeat Richard Nixon, we needed "someone with greater experience." The 43-year-old Kennedy replied: "The world is changing. The old ways will not do." He was right—and America agreed.

Today we face another transformative moment. Americans are hungry for a directness and freshness that speaks to the public fatigue with politics as usual. That's why Barack Obama is not just the candidate most able to meet the special demands of the time; he's also the Democrat most likely to get to the White House.

Obama, due in large measure to his early opposition to the war in Iraq, can best highlight the "security gap" we now live with thanks to John McCain and the Republican Party. America is less safe today than we should be because of the choices McCain and George W. Bush have made. Obama is uniquely equipped to not just end the war in Iraq, but end the mind-set that got us into war. The contrasts are clear: if Obama is our nominee, McCain will not be able to say that his opponent voted for the war in Iraq, or that he gave Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran. Obama presents other foreign-policy opportunities as well: he'd be willing to break with Bush's unilateralism and talk with our enemies.

He'd also encourage a conversation at home. For years, Karl Rove and the Republicans have made a handsome living polarizing us—looking at the United States and seeing only an electorate to be pitted against each other. In Obama, however, America has a candidate who will end the politics of Swift Boating. The country is responding to his politics of unity. Obama's innovative grass-roots campaign—powered by 1.3 million Americans who have made donations—reflects his conviction that real change comes only when people form a movement so large that Washington has no choice but to listen. That's not just a way to win the election. It's the only way to change the nation.

This year, Democrats know we have an embarrassment of riches—two terrific candidates. But one is truly transformative. Obama isn't just winning elections; he's exciting millions of new voters. In North Carolina, 165,000 people have registered this year alone, three quarters of them eligible to vote in the Democratic primary. Skeptics question whether Obama can win working-class voters, but in Virginia and Wisconsin, two states the party aims to carry in November, he romped through—winning every demographic group across the lines of education, religion, ethnicity, race and income. With critical Senate races in places like Colorado and New Mexico, Democratic leaders are excited that the "coattails" of an Obama campaign can win a new generation of Red State Democrats. Last February, Virginia's Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine was asked whether a Democratic candidate could carry Virginia for the first time since LBJ did it in 1964. "The right Democrat could," he replied. Two days later, he endorsed Obama.

The Illinois senator is the strongest nominee because he has shown that he can learn from mistakes and respond to challenges with the best weapon America has: the truth. He has already had a presidential moment in this campaign. Faced with criticisms about his faith, Obama gave one of the most eloquent, brave and bracingly honest speeches I have ever heard a politician give. Instead of trying to say the right thing, he just tried to tell the truth, in all its unvarnished complexity. There is no greater sign of his respect for people everywhere than a refusal to insult their intelligence.

If there's a silver lining to eight disastrous years of George W. Bush, it's this: the next president has an unprecedented opportunity to break with the past—and reinvent America's politics at home and its image abroad. The next president can re-establish our faith in government and in ourselves. After all, we get to decide what to do with the moments history gives us. And I believe that we will use this one to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

Kerry was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.

'What It Takes to Win'
I have no doubt that the best person to lead the democratic Party in the fall and, more important, to lead our nation starting Jan. 20, 2009, is Sen. Hillary Clinton. During the last 15 years, I've gotten to know Senator Clinton. I've seen her talents and her boundless work ethic up close. She is one of the smartest, most capable and competent individuals you will ever meet. I have met many presidential candidates and none of them, including Bill Clinton, has been as well prepared and ready to be president as Hillary is.

I know she has what it takes to win. After all, she's been in the national arena for more than 15 years. She faced tough Republican opposition and only came out stronger. Eight years as First Lady, two terms in the Senate—no one understands the demands and requirements to attain and execute the office of president more than Hillary does. And that's why she'll go toe-to-toe with Sen. John McCain in November.

Hillary is ready to be commander in chief. She has been endorsed by 35 of this nation's most-esteemed former admirals and generals, including two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She knows and respects our men and women in uniform and has earned their respect as well. She has a comprehensive plan to end the Iraq War and will bring our troops home swiftly and responsibly, beginning within 60 days of taking office. And she has the experience and national-security credentials that will help us make the case against McCain: Hillary has served for five years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, standing up for our soldiers and veterans and holding the Bush administration accountable for its failures in Iraq. All this, as well as the fact that, as First Lady, Hillary represented our nation in more than 80 countries, gives her the ability to restore our leadership in the world. No one will ever doubt her readiness for that difficult task ahead.

Domestically, Hillary's seven years as senator have helped her form sensible solutions to our problems. Her health-care plan is balanced, workable, will contain spiraling costs and give all Americans access to affordable care. She, and she alone, understands that, to contain and even reduce costs, it is essential for all Americans to have health care. Currently, it costs every one of us who is insured $1,000 in premiums to cover the cost of providing health care to the uninsured, most often too little, too late.

Hillary will revitalize our economy. She is the only candidate who gets that, to keep us competitive in the global marketplace, we need to invest in research in new technologies. For example, she wants to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by 50 percent in five years and 100 percent in 10 years (President Bush proposes to cut NIH's budget by $1 billion). She understands that we need a research-and-development tax credit for renewable- and alternative-energy manufacturers so that investors will have the confidence to support companies engaged in this kind of work. These investments will create the jobs of the future in renewable energy, health science (including genetic research), advanced engineering and manufacturing.

Senator Clinton sees the link between education and economic development. So, to make these crucial innovations a reality, we need an education system that will produce scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Hillary knows that our economic growth depends on it. That's why she wants to invest in our education system at every level: if we are to remain competitive in the world, we must attract women to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Currently, law, medical and business schools have student bodies that are more than 50 percent female—and yet, engineering schools are less than 20 percent filled with women, and science and math Ph.D. programs often contain less than 10 percent. Senator Clinton realizes we must focus our attention on young girls in elementary school and begin there to cultivate their interest in STEM courses. If we can achieve this, we will no longer be fighting global economic competition with one hand behind our back.

So much hangs in the balance in this election. A war in Iraq to end. An economy to revive. A middle class that needs a champion after eight years of neglect. Pennsylvania and states across the country desperately need a partner in Washington, D.C. We need a president who will fight for us—and a candidate who will win for us. That's why I support Hillary.

Rendell, A former Philadelphia Mayor, is in his second term as Pennsylvania Governor.