It’s good to be a Democrat today, celebrating the nomination of the first African-American presidential candidate, confident that Barack Obama can ride the desire for change all the way into the White House and new, better era of American — and world — politics.

That’s conventions: events tailor-made to give the impression nothing can stop the men – and they stubbornly remain men – at their centre from surging to victory. They don’t have much to do with politics on the ground, out in American cities and suburbs and exurbs and small towns, where getting people out to actually cast a vote is half the challenge. And Obama is up against a man who has been written off repeatedly, but who keeps coming back. John McCain was dangerous enough when he didn’t have – or was actually fighting – the Republican machine. With that machine, even in its current underfunded state, behind him, he can’t be written off.

And don’t forget the third player in all this, the man still in the Oval Office. Vladimir Putin today claimed Georgia had been encouraged by a White House anxious to create a McCain-friendly foreign policy crisis. However much this is special pleading by the thug who leads a resurgent Russia, everyone knows it’s plausible. Foreign policy is where Obama is weakest, and where George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have maximum scope for action. There’s a way to go yet before 4 November.