Is the guy on the left selling the same stuff today that the guy on the right was selling thirty-two years ago?
I wasn't really cognizant of politics back in 1976. I knew that "the President" was an important man and I knew that a lot of people were talking about politics and the government, and that people were happy that it was the bicentennial, which I learned was a word that meant "two hundred years old." So I don't remember what it was about Jimmy Carter that caught fire and propelled him to the Democratic Party's nomination and, given the prevailing political conditions of that year, inevitably to the Presidency. I know (now) that he tactically figured out how to game the Iowa caucuses before anyone else had ever done so and that really helped his candidacy, which was at the time a very clever political move. So clearly the guy had some ability, and despite Watergate and the bitter aftertaste of Vietnam, Carter only won by 3% of the popular vote and 57 electoral votes -- not a decisive victory.
Reading back over discussions of the race that year, I have to think that he was pitching honesty, transparency in government, racial unity, a "different kind of politics" from what Nixon had brought, and a healing process after a morally and strategically ambiguous war. Is that right? Is that the stuff that Carter was selling? If so, why should we think that Obama can deliver on that promise in the way that Carter could not?