The Louisville Courier-Journal -- the largest newspaper in Kentucky and one which has significant readership in Southern Indiana -- has just endorsed Barack Obama in advance of the Indiana and Kentucky primaries.
This is a very sophisticated and persuasive endorsement. Rather than throwing Hillary Clinton under the bus, the Courier-Journal recognizes that the Democrats have two strong choices but concludes that Obama is better positioned to actuate change. They also say that Obama's stance on the gas tax is a particular point in his favor.
Many Democrats have taken to worrying that the protracted and excruciatingly close battle for their party's presidential nomination may divide their ranks and diminish their chances of victory in November.
But that's a glass-half-empty view. A more positive outlook is that at a time when the departing administration has steered the nation severely off course, Democrats are blessed with two candidates of intelligence, vision and vigor.
Sen. Barack Obama referred to that excitement in a teleconference interview last week with this newspaper's editorial board. "We were always the longshot," he said. "The fact we've done so well speaks to the hunger of the American people for a different message and a different direction."
We agree, and we also believe that Sen. Obama is the Democratic candidate better equipped to restore Americans' hope for the future and to bring change to Washington.
While both candidates talk of offering encouragement and real aid to working- and middle-class Americans, there are differences in approach.
On health care, for example, we lean toward Sen. Clinton's insistence on mandating universal care. Sen. Obama, who focuses on reducing costs, is right that such a mandate would be costly and difficult to enforce, but too many people inevitably would fall between cracks and wind up uninsured.
On the other hand, we applaud Sen. Obama's opposition to a suspension of the federal gasoline tax, which Sen. Clinton favors. He is right that the move would save consumers little money, might be negated if oil companies raise prices and would encourage gasoline consumption instead of conservation.
Still, the differences are sufficiently minor that the key point becomes one that Sen. Obama stresses: Who is best able to actually accomplish new directions?
Sen. Obama's relentless focus on change, and the hordes of new voters he draws to the polls, would make it hard for his victory to be read as anything other than a mandate for changing how Washington works.
Sen. Clinton actually has engaged in more collaborative efforts with Republicans than she is given credit for. But she is battle-scarred, widely viewed as divisive and, we believe, would face a harder time enacting her program.
In this endorsement, you might notice some echoes of Mark Schmitt's theory of change article, which for my money remains the most important analysis yet written about this election and one which is always worth a second read.
UPDATE: Separately, the Courier-Journal has a beautiful editorial praising Ben Chanlder for his endorsement of Obama:
Chandler's office said some of the resulting complaints it got from his Bluegrass constituents were "racially insensitive," meaning racist. That's no surprise. Kentucky's population is only 7.4 percent black, the lowest of any former slave state. That made the civil-rights era less contentious here, but it also has made completion of that era's promise more difficult in many of our localities, because they have few people of color and are burdened by ignorance -- and the fear and prejudice it breeds.
Some Kentuckians still fly the Confederate flag. We weren't part of the Confederacy, but joined the losing side after the Civil War, largely because of how we treated during the war. That was the first in a long list of bad decisions that turned us into a relatively poor and undereducated state.
In the 20th Century, Kentucky's most potent political name was Chandler -- A. B. "Happy" Chandler, the congressman's grandfather. He was governor, senator, baseball commissioner and governor again. He facilitated the desegregation of the major leagues and sent National Guard troops to enforce school integration, but was an ally of some segregationists and late in life used the N-word as a University of Kentucky trustee.
Political calculations were surely part of Chandler's decision, but perhaps he also saw an opportunity to put some of Kentucky's past behind it. When a Chandler supports a black candidate for president, that says something to some people. They should also recall that Happy went against the grain in 1960 and supported John F. Kennedy, who became the first Catholic president. Kennedy's religion probably kept him from carrying Kentucky that year, and Obama's ethnicity probably will do likewise this year. But Ben Chandler's risk of political capital pushes us into the future, from which we have too often shied away.