The evolution of the Obama campaign

A lot of the initial chattering commentary over night has referenced Obama's incredible speech in front of 17,000 people in Madison last night. How you can see him growing, evolving, reaching, summoning even more, all right in front of us. That part of the emerging drama of this race is tracking the maturation of the most moving and remarkable public speaker America has seen in a very long time.

Last night he added a whole very compelling riff on McCain, and as I've written, it may turn out that McCain is one of the worst candidates the GOP could have fielded this year. But the most important new part of the speech was his discussion of the economy, of the middle class struggle, something that the campaign has had a very hard time taking to the same level as the rest of his stump. Given how important the economy is this year, it is remarkable how far Senator Obama has come given that his economic messaging has been less than it should be. But later this morning he is giving what the campaign is billing as a "major" new economic speech. For those tracking the evolution of the good Senator from Illinois, this speech - which I think was previewed a little last night - will be an important moment in assessing his continued growth.

He also appears to be in the process of successfully addressing one of his other weaknesses - Latinos. He broke 40% last night in both MD and VA, and actually won Latinos in Virginia. The real test of his new efforts in the Hispanic community will of course come in Texas on March 4th, where both campaigns are already on the air with Spanish language ads (scroll below to listen and watch). Obama doesn't need to win Latinos to win Texas, he just needs to get close, something he did last night, and did in both Arizona and Colorado. As Andres wrote last night, the Clinton campaign is very aware of the centrality of the Hispanic vote as her primetime event last night was very very Hispanic focused.

Of all the stats the one that stood out to me most this morning - and that should be terrifying GOP strategists - was that Senator Obama won more votes in Virginia than all the Republican candidates combined. Yes, Virginia, a state Democrats have not won in a general election since 1964. As Senator Obama has been saying, "something is happening out there." One of the most interesting trends to watch is how the recent Obama surge not only put him ahead of Clinton but of McCain as well.

Finally, while I loved his speech last night, my favorite line is the one from last week "we are the ones we've been waiting for." The campaign took the line and turned it into an incredible video which you can watch from the link.

Update: The Post's Jonathan Weisman has a good piece looking at whether the formidable Clinton triad - women, traditional Dems, Hispanics - broke apart last night.