There is an interesting column in the Washington Post by E.J. Dionne in which he argues that since there are little policy differences between Obama and Clinton, Democrats are supporting Obama because he appeals to them emotionally. Here is a quote from the article:
Barack Obama has surged to rough parity with Hillary Clinton in the national polls not because Democrats reject her carefully thought-out solutions to the central public problems but because he has created in the party's rank and file a feeling of liberation -- from intimidation by Republicans, from old divisions, from history itself.
If you look at the criticisms of Clinton from the left on the political blogs, it is seldom over policies, and often over personalities. The one exception is the war in Iraq. Her vote on the Resolution for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force is repeatedly cited as the one fundamental policy difference between her and Obama.
Yet, even regarding the war, the difference is largely over her past record and not over the difference between her present position and Obama's present position. Given that fact, why then are so many Democrats so drawn to Obama?
One big difference between Obama and Clinton seems to be how each of them regards the practice of politics. Clinton gives the impression that she regards politics as constant confrontation with Republicans. Given her husband's history, and her history, with the Republicans, this makes sense. Yet, most of us, even rabid Democratic partisans, grow tired of conflict and yearn for a more concilatory atmosphere. Obama gives the hope that such a atmosphere could exist, Clinton does not.
Democrats tend to favor candidates who connect with them emotionally. Think Bill Clinton over Paul Tsongas or, for that matter, Jack Kennedy over Hubert Humphrey. They favor candidates who seem to offer hope. Between Obama and Clinton, Obama is the candidate who seems warmer and seems more hopeful.
Such an appeal should not be underestimated. In the long run it is easier to maintain a campaign based on hope than one based on anger, a campaign based on appeals to the heart than on appeals to the brain.