But there remained uncertainty until this week, when Tootie sealed the deal.
Tootie is the nickname of Madelyn Dunham, now 85. She's Obama's grandmother. She's the lady on the left in this Chicago Tribune picture, taken in 1979.
She not only helped raise her grandson, whom she usually called Barry, but she gave him the example of a strong, executive woman who could come out of her suit after work, throw on a muumuu, and become grandma again.
Madelyn is now gravely ill, and so Barack Obama has taken a few days off from campaigning to see her, to become Barry again.
How does this seal the deal?
Conventional wisdom will note that Mrs. Dunham is white, or that this injects Obama's biography back into the campaign. It's an inspiring biography, completely non-elitist, marked with the rewards Americans give naturally to people who work hard -- a good education and a chance to better themselves.
But that's not it. This visit re-humanizes the candidate at a crucial time. He has already shown that he can fit the suit, that he can perform the ceremonial roles of the American Presidency, that he has the intellectual chops to actually do the job, because he has managed a large organization -- the largest in the history of American politics -- without a single glitch or even a press leak.
Now we need to know that we can be comfortable with him, that he is, in fact, one of us. Just while McCain is going on about Obama being elitist, about him feeling better than us, off he goes to a little apartment in Honolulu to be with his grandmother, with the woman who helped raise him, and all the lessons of her life come flooding back to us in ways that can make you cry.
The important changes in American politics do that. They tear at our emotions in various ways. Reagan did that. Kennedy's death did that. Roosevelt did that. Sometimes the tears are of sorrow, sometimes of joy, but our greatest leaders find a way to pull these things out of us, by inspiring us in small ways to do the right thing.
That's what Barack Obama is doing today. He is doing the right thing. I wasn't there when my dad passed, and my wife wasn't there when her dad passed. There is tremendous human emotion at these times, emotion that is completely divorced from politics, but emotion we all feel, and we know he feels.
I can't remember a campaign, in all my life, that has gone this well, this perfectly, without drama, especially at such a highly dramatic time. This was the problem with Barack Obama's campaign. It was beginning to feel a little bloodless, a little too pat, too easy, and that could easily have fed into a charge of elitism, of difference, and then into the race thing.
Then, with less than two weeks to go before election day, the candidate flies thousands of miles because his grandma is sick.
And so we think of her life story, we think of her husband's, and their daughter's. They were all, each of the Dunhams, the better angels of our nature, doing the right thing without a second thought, simply because it is the right thing. Doing what all of us most want to do, making the children we raise into gifts for the world, hoping they can change the world, move history forward just a little bit in the right direction. (The picture at left was taken back in 2000.)
If your heart isn't moved by all that you don't have one. If your heart isn't moved by that go ahead and vote the straight Republican ticket. But I guarantee, at this point, that you're in the minority.