Say what you want about Team Obama’s rough couple of months since the Ohio and Texas primaries, but with the nomination now secure they are signaling very clearly that they intend to fight harder and smarter than John Kerry did four years ago.

First, you have Obama going straight into the teeth of his Republican opponents last night by giving his speech in St. Paul, where the Republican National Convention will be held this September. And then, second, he turns and heads to western Virginia to meet tomorrow with those very same white voters from Appalachia who voted for Hillary Clinton and perhaps remain wary of Obama. (For more about Obama's visit, I recommend blogger Patrick Ottenhoff, who runs one of my favorite sites, The Electoral Map; he has a great post about what western Virginia looks like relative to the rest of the state.)

As the general election stage begins, the early signal from Obama is that he is not going to be the conflict-avoidant candidate we saw four years ago--a nominee who decided to scrub all the speeches given from the podium in Boston at the Democratic National Convention of any criticisms of President Bush.

--Tom Schaller

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