Barack Obama

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In the cover story of the dead-tree TIME that hits newsstands tomorrow, I look at the transformation of the candidate and his campaign. The cover package also includes excerpts of Rick Stengel’s interview with him and an essay on Obama and race by Shelby Steele. (I’ll post that link when it goes up.)

Obama insists that he and the campaign have reached the point where it is possible to more directly take on the frontrunner without sacrificing the signature claim of his candidacy–that he represents a new kind of politics. He also has this to say about what he thinks of the long and brutal process by which the country chooses its candidates:

“Ultimately, the process reveals aspects of an individual’s character and judgment. If you think about past Presidents, probably those two things, along with vision, are the most important aspects of a presidency,” he says. “Do you know where you want to take the country? Do you have the judgment to figure out what’s important and what’s not? Do you have the character to withstand trials and tribulations and to bounce back from setbacks?”