McCain versus Obama – doesn’t that just roll off the tongue and make you warm all over? These two men are surging toward their parties’ nominations. McCain’s Straight Talk Express ran over Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, and Barack Obama is drawing crowds like a rock ‘n’ roll star. And if everything goes as Obama hopes, come November America will be choosing between two candidates who are separated by decades in age. This age dynamic will prove to be the story of this election – the young idealist against the age-tested pragmatist. What it comes down to, though, is that these two men are the best two people to provide this country with something it desperately needs: a presidential election focused on issues, not smear politicking.

One year ago, it was a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States. Six months ago, conservatives were lining up behind Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani. And eight years ago, McCain and Obama would not have made it out of Super Tuesday. And what better proof than the fact that McCain didn’t make it out.

But what a difference disgraceful decision-making in the Oval Office and a little corruption from Congressional Republicans makes. Now, the Democratic and Republican parties are living their worst nightmare – they are out of the driver’s seats. These two have made it this far because they are the antithesis of what their two parties were “selling”. They’re respectable, they’re positive and they want to help the country and not their parties. Too bad for the parties, but good for America.

Just listen or watch one of Obama’s mega-rallies. They include Obama’s linguistic mastery, nauseating amounts of cheering and even some fainting. You can’t help but feel inspired, or at least positive about where our political discourse is headed after you hear him speak. When he says, “Now is our time to write a new chapter of history,” he’s empowering us to go out and make a difference. Obama’s speeches are like listening to the passion of Martin Luther King, Jr, mixed with the resonance of John F. Kennedy. He can bring good ideas back to a Democratic party that has become complacent and unoriginal.

McCain’s greatest strength is that he’s the Republican candidate least associated with the Bushies – the faction of the GOP that America now loathes. He wants Americans to be proud again, even if that means telling the Republican base to take a hike. While he may be giving Rush Limbaugh a headache, McCain has carefully courted moderates, much to his success.

No matter what happens between now and the conventions, McCain and Obama have put their parties in a tough spot. Both parties need their nominees more than the nominees need their parties. If either party wavers in their support for their nominee, voters will flee in droves.

Each of the candidates’ kryptonite – the one thing despised by the party – is exactly why each is winning. With McCain, it’s the laundry list of aisle-crossing alliances: McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy and McCain-Lieberman. For Obama, it’s his unabashed and consistent resistance to the Iraq mess – Democratic elites think he’ll paint the party as a dissident.

However, everyone should cross their fingers that these are the two candidates America will choose from in November. Then, the election would be a showdown between the politics of hope and the politics of leadership – not smear politics. The alternative is an election in which Clinton picks up the Democratic nomination because of superdelegates and she launches her patented brand of vitriol politics against. Then we’re right back where we started.

Kevin Bunkley is an LSA senior and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.

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