Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why Obama Can't Win

President Obama has no chance at re-election. The way he was elected in 2008, and his dismal record make it impossible. I do not agree that Obama has been a failure, at least in terms of his intentions. I believe he has achieved much of what he set out to do. It's just that his vision of what America should be is at odds with the views of most Americans. I believe the far left in the Democratic Party after seeing their candidate run on "fundamental change" thought the time was right to institute "fundamental change". They were wrong. But Obama's performance in office is not the only reason he will lose. It's a little more complicated than that.

Obama's problem is he is running against himself. In 2007 Barack Obama was an unknown outside the world of politics. In 2008 his popularity was of a magnitude and scope I still find hard to believe. The only thing I've seen that was even comparable was the Beatlemania phenomenon of the mid-sixties. Obama was everywhere. He was a great speaker, a good campaigner, he was personable, dynamic, and just about every positive intangible one can think of Obama had in boatloads. He attracted the hard left, moderates, independents and not a small number of conservatives. He was all things to all people. His "hope and change" theme was so positive, so optimistic, it hit just the right note for the times. He couldn't lose.

But those days are over. He has a record now and his policies are unpopular. He can't run on accomplishment so he has to run on personality once again, but there are huge problems with that. First it's impossible to catch lightening in a bottle like he did in 2008. He's not the new, cool, hip celebrity everybody was infatuated with back then. And although he doesn't appear tired or battle worn, the positive attitude, the charm, the charisma are gone. The Obama campaign is discovering you can only be a virgin once. So if Obama's personal attributes were a 10 the first time he ran, they're a weak 6 now, and trending down. And Obama's efforts to drive down Romney's likability are falling on deaf ears. Romney is running a substance campaign about policies and competence and the direction of the country. Nobody thinks Romney is cool and nobody expects him to compete on this front. Plus Obama's attacks go against the grain of Obama's whole persona. They do more harm than good.

As I see it Obama can't run on substance because he has a lousy record. He can't run on personality and/or celebrity because those are fleeting and transitory and once they're gone they're gone. What's to be done? Nothing; in my view it's over. Considering how Obama was elected as this cultural phenomenon more characteristic of the entertainment industry than politics, his one chance at re-election was he had to deliver. Second term campaigns for incumbents are always about competence and stewardship. Expectations were so high and the results have fallen so far short, reality has set in and nobody is buying Obama 2.0.

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