When I first started working in politics, as a junior aide on Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign, it never occurred to me that I would one day work in the White House. There were plenty of women among the volunteers who stuffed envelopes and walked precincts. But there were fewer and fewer on each successive level of influence and access.
While eschewing emotion - and its companion, vulnerability - Obama should be careful not to sacrifice empathy, the 'I feel your pain' connection that sustained Clinton. This connection is the shorthand people use to measure their leaders' intentions. If people believe you're on their side, they will trust your decisions.
Palin was a political Hail Mary, a long bomb in the closing minutes of a game that John McCain and Co. were certain to lose. They didn't care if she had the policy or political or emotional capacity to serve as vice president, let alone president. They were willing to drive the country off a cliff, if that's what it took to win.
Obama seemed poised to realign American politics after his stunning 2008 victory. But the economy remains worse than even the administration's worst-case scenarios, and the long legislative battles over health care reform, financial services reform and the national debt and deficit have taken their toll. Obama no longer looks invincible.