Axelrod recalled that when the Rev. Wright crisis exploded, the “only one who was calm was Obama.” And Plouffe identifies Obama’s speech about race as the turning point in the campaign: “It was a moment of real leadership. I think when he gave that race speech in Philadelphia, people saw a president.”

The piece ends with this summation from Axelrod:

We believed in him, and we believed in the cause. And we believed in each other. And by the end of this thing, over two years, you forge relationships. And we’re like a family. The hardest thing about this is that it’s ended now. It’s like the end of the movie M*A*S*H…The war’s over. We’re all going home. And we want to go home. But, on the other hand, it’s sort of a bit of melancholy because we’ve come to love each other and believe in each other. And we know that this will never be the same.

The same thing is true about America.

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Charles Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis and 1968 in America. He has been media editor for Newsweek, a member of the metro staff of The New York Times, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the press and book publishing. To learn more, visit charleskaiser.com.