What happened
Barack Obama picked up steam this week after a Sunday appearance with Oprah Winfrey drew the biggest crowd of his presidential campaign. Anaylsts said Obama now has a real shot at winning the Democratic primary in South Carolina—where as many as half the voters are black, and one African-American state legistlator supporting Hillary Clinton said a black candidate could never win. (Chicago Sun-Times)

What the commetators said
“Is it foolish to think that a nation stained by centuries of slavery and racism is prepared to elect a black president?” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post (free registration). Winfrey told the crowds that Obama can do what Martin Luther King dreamed. Many people say that’s “starry-eyed nonsense.” It still seems “improbable” that America is ready to move beyond racism and elect a black president, but it’s “no longer impossible.”

Obama’s track record of success should give his supporters hope, said Jason L. Riley in OpinionJournal.com. But author Shelby Steele—who, like Obama, has a white mother and black father—says Obama can’t win. Obama made himself the nation’s “first viable black contender” with a non-confrontational approach to race that comforts white voters. But “Obama can't win without near-unanimous support from black voters, and nothing makes these voters more suspicious than a black politician who is beloved by so many white people.”

Obama has already pulled off one magic trick, said Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). He has, “amazingly,” made Hillary Clinton—“the first female front-runner for president”—the “candidate of the establishment.” Democrats “want a victory that will magically change the world,” and Obama is the “abracadabra” word of the 2008 race.