Barack Obama needs to increase his appeal among working-class voters.
A friend and ardent Democrat who is distressed over Barack Obama's stall in the polls was laying out his vision for a breakthrough. "He's got to talk with more specifics about the economy and connect with average Americans who are hurting," my friend said. "He's got to be tough and hardheaded and honest about what he's going to do."
That's easy, I thought. All Obama needs is a personality transplant that makes him a whole new person. Less dreamy eloquence, more grit would help.
Oh, and he should make the change immediately, so this new and improved Obama - this Obama 2.0 - can appear in Denver while the eyes of the nation are on him.
Democrats need a momentum changer, with many Republicans for the first time believing John McCain can win. Instead of consolidating the party behind him, polls show Obama has lost ground in key states since Hillary Clinton conceded in June. The race is a referendum on him, and he has failed to make a compelling case he is ready.
Obama's problems with working-class voters are so well-defined now that the history-making nature of his candidacy is sometimes an afterthought. As the first black person to be the nominee of a major American political party, Obama has scaled heights of success regarded as impossible only a year ago.
Yet "close" doesn't count in elections, and Obama would be the first to say the journey will not be complete unless it ends in the Oval Office. How well he and his party do their jobs in Denver will go a long way to determining whether that greater history is made.
The opportunity is there. Americans remain in a mood to blame Republicans for everything from the war in Iraq to the economy to the price of gas. With eight out of 10 voters saying the country is on the wrong track, this should be a Democratic year from statehouses to the White House.
But for that to happen, Obama has hard work to do. So hard, in fact, that vanquishing Clinton and a rat pack of male rivals for the nomination now looks like it was the easy part.
The good news for Democrats is that Obama and his team, after two months of dithering, finally seem to recognize the seriousness of the problem.
By selecting Joe Biden as his running mate, they opted for a grownup who could plug big holes in Obama's game.
Obama's lack of experience, especially on foreign affairs, was so glaring that Clinton and McCain both exploited it almost at will. Russia's invasion of Georgia illustrated the untenable situation that every world crisis had the potential to help McCain because Obama had no answer to the experience gap.
Biden, for all his flaws, brings some balance to that battle. As the designated attack dog, he will take the fight to McCain in ways that are unbecoming and uncomfortable for Obama.
Yet that brings us back to my friend's concern about Obama himself. For all his inspirational rhetoric and the savvy primary game plan, the fundamental doubts about his readiness that were there on day one persist.
Biden cannot change that dynamic. Nor can Bill and Hillary Clinton, even if they are inclined to honestly try to help Obama win.
If Obama is going to be President, he must propel himself over the finish line. We're about to find out if he can summon whatever it takes.