The Note: Inevitability, Now

If you look carefully through those tubes, you can see why Sen. Chuck Schumer is thinking about the big Six-Oh.

If you look carefully at the news cycle's latest popular kid, you can determine how new Gov. Tim Kaine and his friends are at this veepstakes thing.

If you look not-so-carefully at what President Bill Clinton is up to, you might forgive him for missing the perks of the presidency.

If you look carefully at what Sen. John McCain is doing and saying, you can measure how much twisting straight talk can survive.

If you look carefully at what Sen. Barack Obama is doing and saying, you can watch his self-image swell to fill the mold being fitted for him. (And hey -- the inevitability thing worked SO well in the primaries . . . )

Some of the most interesting looking centers on Obama: Secret meetings, a bizarrely vague public schedule, sit-downs with the Fed chairman and the new Pakistani prime minister, all after a heralded foreign trip?

You might say he's measuring the drapes -- but that assumes he hasn't ordered new windows.

The latest entry in the (bulging) Obama files: "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," he told House Democrats Tuesday night, per The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman. "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."

(Read that sentence again, and try to imagine how it would look if it was said on camera.)

Obama may be right (and if he is, he wins) -- but the first person singular is the most dangerous of tenses, particularly when the meme is being set. Toss in a jettisoned faux-presidential seal, a canceled visit with troops, maybe a sprinkling of broken promises, and you've got enough to weave an uncomfortable yet unforgettable suit.

With a public schedule that "would have made Dick Cheney envious," this is Obama going from presumptive to presumptuous, Dana Milbank writes in his Washington Post column.

"Some say the supremely confident Obama -- nearly 100 days from the election, he pronounces that 'the odds of us winning are very good' -- has become a president-in-waiting," Milbank writes. "But in truth, he doesn't need to wait: He has already amassed the trappings of the office, without those pesky decisions."

(If you don't think the hype is contagious, check out the newspaper headlines over Patti Solis Doyle's shoulder in this photo -- and remember that Solis Doyle once managed Hillary Clinton's campaign.)

From Obama's perspective, it's not bad work if you can get it -- except McCain is using those very symbols to try to take it away from him. (It's in full techno-music glory in the RNC's new Web ad.)

This is fun to make fun of, sure (and the world can always use an extra Hasselhoff reference).

But with Obama set to return to "real" campaigning in Missouri Wednesday with the start of a bus tour (and McCain set to share a piece of the state with him), consider how Obama has set the stage: His economic message is being built on the same pillars as his foreign policy, as if meeting with important people sends the message that he cares.

At this snapshot of a moment, who has the more compelling economic message? And who's the insider in this equation?

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