The Note: Signed and Sealed

Forget the transition team -- that was so 2007 -- think he's hiring for the reelect yet? (We're not sure "yes, we can" works anymore -- what about "yeah, we did"?)

Somewhere between the new seal, a new Latin phrase, the shattered public financing pledge, and the not-happening town-hall forums, Sen. Barack Obama made clear that he's really, really sure he's going to win.

Nothing wrong with a little confidence -- Democrats like to be optimistic these days -- and the latest polls give him enough of an edge to quell concerns going into a week that will be defined by a big meeting.

But confidence is a tricky game for Obama, D-Ill., who is still busy defining himself to a skeptical public -- to say nothing of still-seething Clinton supporters (and an increasingly frustrated press corps).

In his rush to take advantages where they present themselves, Obama just may have eroded his central message -- as reformer, as change agent, as different-kind-of-politician. The question now is whether Sen. John McCain can do anything about it (and remember that he aims for those same qualities).

As things stand, there will be no public financing, and there will be no freewheeling town-hall forums. There's one candidate who's the main reason for both of those facts.

"By refusing to join McCain in these initiatives in order to protect his own interests, Obama raises an important question: Has he built sufficient trust so that his motives will be accepted by the voters who are only now starting to figure out what makes him tick?" David Broder writes in his Sunday Washington Post column.

Suggestions to the contrary notwithstanding, Obama did not plop upon us fully formed and ready to take his country into flight.

"For all his talk about change, Obama remains a product of a Chicago and Illinois political culture renowned for corruption and filled with characters who range from felonious to just outrageous," Bob Secter and John McCormick write in the Chicago Tribune. "Whether any of that will matter in November is an open question, but Obama clearly is betting he can benefit from Chicago's reputation for toughness without being tainted by its darker political side."

That's one way to cast his decision to jettison his commitment to public financing (though Republicans can think of a few other ways). "Perhaps people didn't know how tough he is. He's been saying all along, don't confuse hope with naivete," Obama friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett tells The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Anne E. Kornblut.

Write Balz and Kornblut: "If some Republicans rue the swift and calculated nature they say characterizes Obama's early steps, his campaign advisers say they have needed to move quickly to make up for the months spent waging the extended primary race. They cast the decision on public financing, for example, as motivated partly by timing, with just four full months left until Election Day to provide voters with the vision of Obama they hope to establish."

He's got name recognition -- but he's still coming into focus. "The problem [for Obama] is, many don't know much about his background or where he stands on the issues, and Republicans and groups working for his defeat in November are working to define him on their terms," Christina Bellantoni writes in the Washington Times.

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