It's not about guns -- it's about ammunition.
Thursday's landmark Supreme Court may or may not have plopped gun control into the campaign. But it does place Sen. Barack Obama's careful, cautious, sometimes contradictory (and dare we say Clintonian?) approach to tricky policy positions squarely in the center of the race.
An appropriate day for Obama to wrap himself in the Clinton legacy: As Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton seek unity in Unity, N.H., the emerging portrait of Obama, D-Ill., is of a politician who is racing for the centrist approach, and choosing his words mighty carefully.
Name your issue -- on trade, taxes, guns, the death penalty, campaign finance reform, FISA -- Obama may well be taking the politically smart position for a Democrat in these early days of the general election.
But the point is that he's taking positions that are at least shaded differently than those he's taken in the past, if not outright flip-flops. These are political calculations that make a dangerous assumption for Obama: that he's willing to risk being called a "politician" at all.
"From the beginning, Barack Obama's special appeal was his vow to remain an idealistic outsider, courageous and optimistic, and never to shift his positions for political expediency, or become captive of the Inside-the-Beltway intelligentsia, or kiss up to special interests and big money donors," writes McClatchy's Margaret Talev. "In recent weeks, though, Obama has done all those things."
The post-primary migration is looking like a sprint: "In the last week, Mr. Obama has taken calibrated positions on issues that include electronic surveillance, campaign finance and the death penalty for child rapists, suggesting a presidential candidate in hot pursuit of what Bill Clinton once lovingly described as 'the vital center,' Michael Powell writes in The New York Times. "Mr. Obama has executed several policy pirouettes in recent weeks, each time landing more toward the center of the political ring."
"His reactions to this week's controversial court decisions showed yet again how he is carefully moving to the center ahead of the fall campaign," Massimo Calabresi writes for Time. "Politicians are always happy to get a chance to accuse opponents of flip-flopping, but McCain's team may be more afraid of Obama's shift to the center than their words betray."
This is audacity of a different variety: "Since securing the Democratic presidential nomination, when confronted with a series of thorny issues the Illinois senator has pursued a conspicuously conventional path, one that falls far short of his soaring rhetoric," Kenneth P. Vogel writes for Politico.
"Obama passed up opportunities to take bold stands and make striking departures from customary politics. Instead, he has followed a familiar tack, straddling controversial issues and choosing politically advantageous routes that will ensure his campaign a cash edge and minimize damaging blowback on several highly sensitive issues."
The arrogance tag -- from the seal flap to the reversals and the non-committal responses -- is set to be applied by the RNC. "We're going to argue that there's been significant damage done to Obama's brand this week," one GOP operative tells The Note on Friday.