• This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," February 16, 2008.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Coming up next on the "Journal Editorial Report" — Super Tuesday II. As voters in Ohio and Texas get set to go to the polls, Hillary Clinton prepare for what may be her final showdown with Barack Obama. Can she sustain a loss in either state and survive?

    Plus, he's calling on Barack Obama to keep his word and take public funds in a general election match up. But John McCain has some campaign finances problems of his own.

    All of that, and a tribute to William F. Buckley, after these headlines.

    (NEWSBREAK)

    GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    It is being billed as Super Tuesday II, next week's showdown between Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Ohio and Texas. Analysts are calling these states Clinton's firewall, must-wins if the northbound Senator is to stay in the race. But if she loses Tuesday, will she bow out gracefully?

    I am pleased to be joined by "Wall Street Journal" columnist Peggy Noonan.

    Peggy, welcome.

    PEGGY NOONAN, COLUMNIST: Hi, Paul.

    GIGOT: The story of the year, the rise of Barack Obama. I have to admit I didn't believe he could beat Hillary Clinton but he stands on the cusp of doing that.

    NOONAN: He does.

    GIGOT: How do you explain the phenomenon?

    NOONAN: He is a phenomenon. That's the right word to use, I think. I think that there is a lot that goes into the story of Obama, but a big part of it is that he is a surprising individual. Surprising in terms of biography, youth. Who he is. And he seems just by standing there and being on the stage to turn the page on the last 16 years of partisan fighting and arguing in Washington. He seems, in part, a refutation to that. In part a — I don't want to go there, I am a consensus character.

    GIGOT: So he fits the political mood. He fits the moment.

    NOONAN: Yes, he fits the moment. And I also think he gave Democrats an alternative to Mrs. Clinton when they didn't quite know they wanted one until they got one. And then they said good. So I think that's part of it.

    GIGOT: Much has been made about his rhetoric and speech making. And he does have the ability to motivate a crowd. Maybe better than anybody since Ronald Reagan. But you have written his speeches sound better to the ear and to the eye. Better than they read on paper.

    NOONAN: Yes. I have done something. I am in the habit of watching his speeches when I can. And I always lean forward and I listen. And I find him to be such a compelling fellow and a persona. But then, let an hour go by and I print out the speech, if I can find it on the Internet. And printing it out and just reading it with him removed from it is a different sort of an experience.

    I know that that's always true. Part of rhetoric is presentation and such. But there is — there is — part of this is simply his compel persona. You are interested in him. How he thinks. How he moves. How he puts himself forward. And that's all a little bit more interesting than the dry text itself.

    GIGOT: Is it a lack of substance, a real urgent policy message? Is that part of it? McCain called it eloquent but empty rhetoric. Is it part of that?