While Sen. Barack Obama was busy winning the image battle during his foreign trip (and Sen. John McCain was barely in the same game) three things happened (and one thing just might be about to):
1. The Obama bump for this much-hyped week was, at best, slow to swell.
2. Obama seemed to whiff on a symbol.
3. Obama went to Berlin and called out to the world -- though not necessarily anyone who can vote for him.
(And once he's back stateside, McCain can and very well might move quickly to find a way back into the discussion; who winds up landing the first veepstakes punch?)
As Obama, D-Ill., wraps up his foreign trip with stops in Paris Friday and London Saturday, the narrative is set to move on with him. For all the good he did his campaign this week -- the gold-plated visuals, the astounding crowd he drew in Berlin, the shift on the politics of the surge and the war -- no bounce will mean fresh doubts, in a race that remains closer than it should be.
We may have here the tale of two elections: One that's playing out among those who spend too much time analyzing this stuff, and one that's playing out among those actual real-life voters who are enjoying their summers (or, depending on economic circumstances, not so much).
Of the first: "In one of the most telling and ironic weeks of the presidential campaign, Democrat Barack Obama accepted Republican John McCain's dare and went to Iraq -- and far beyond, a foreign expedition of carefully staged photo opportunities that left the Arizona senator both at home and on the defensive," per the AP wrap.
Of the second: "The presidential race is tightening in four key battleground states, with Republican John McCain holding an advantage among white male voters and Democrat Barack Obama keeping his lead among the youngest voters, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll," Sara Murray writes in The Wall Street Journal.
"Sen. Obama leads slightly in Michigan and by double-digits in Wisconsin, but by smaller margins than about one month ago. The two candidates are running statistically even in Colorado and Minnesota, compared to the respective five-point and seven-point lead Sen. Obama had in June."
"Not so fast, Obama Nation," Todd Spangler writes in the Detroit Free Press.
"The trip on its own terms was a clean success -- you just cannot take that away from him," ABC's George Stephanopoulos reported on "Good Morning America" Friday. "We don't know yet what kind of impact it's had on voters -- there hasn't been any good test of that yet."
Time for Obama to take a "hard turn" toward the economy next week, Stephanopoulos said.
What did Obama not do this week?
The Columbus Dispatch's front page has McCain looking presidential, at a podium -- and the back of Obama's head.
"While the Democrat was away, the Republican came to play in battleground Ohio," writes Jim Provance of the Toledo Blade.
As for what he did do: "Sen. Barack Obama summoned the world to the cause of his presidential campaign on Thursday. But he won't need the world to win the still-tight election," per ABC News. "For all the powerful visuals of Obama's overseas trip -- shooting hoops with troops, riding a helicopter with Gen. David Petraeus, being received as a world leader from Jordan to Germany -- it's not clear that Obama made up further ground Thursday in answering the most significant concerns about his candidacy."