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Monday, August 27, 2012

Is Obama Throwing It Away?




Here it is, almost 24 hours later, and the Romney-Ryan momentum seems to be holding. Another thought as to why: perhaps Obama has damaged his own vital likability factor by telling too many whoppers recently about the opposition. These tactics, of course, call his personal ethics into question, and that matters. Because of his background, he is in danger of recasting himself as a Chicago machine-style pol. But, perhaps more importantly, they speak of contempt for the average voter; of an assumption that we can all be manipulated, lied to without being smart enough to know different.

Richard J. Daley Sr., the archetypal Chicago politician. Last machine in America. 



A modern spiritual heir.


Obama has always appeared at least a little contemptuous and elitist. His speaking style somehow implies it; he does not appear to feel what he says. There was his “clinging to their guns and religion” comment in 2008. He has made suspicion on that score worse with his “you didn’t build that” comment earlier this summer. People don’t like being talked down to.



And who can hear the world "Chicago" without thinking of ...

More, his 2008 “Hope and Change” campaign, in being ridiculously over the top in what it seemed to promise—“this is the day the oceans stopped rising…”—almost demanded a cynical reaction now. Just as George Bush Sr.’s “no new taxes” and Carter’s “I’ll never lie to you,” while winning strategies in one election, led to an inevitable backlash in the next. I have a friend, quite to the left politically in general, who mentioned in passing yesterday that, while he supported Obama enthusiastically last time, he would never vote for him now—because he felt he had been swindled.



"Read my lips. Hope you can't recognize the 'f' sound."



"I'll never lie to you. Sucker."

So the Democratic campaign takes big risks now by doing anything that looks clever, manipulative, or cynical. And they are blind to it—they are acting very clever, manipulative, and cynical. They are killing Obama's winning card, his likability.

Granted, Romney is not the ideal candidate to run against Obama on this score. He too seems remote from the everyday guy, God knows, unfeeling, and he has been ruthless and unprincipled in his politics throughout the primaries, both this time and four years ago. But what might do it for him is having previous Obama voters stay home in disillusionment, rather than switching their vote to Romney.

Moreover, Ryan, and the selection of Ryan, may have helped Romney out a lot on that score. It now looks as though he really does have a principled reason for wanting to be president, and an actual programme. Ryan, if not Romney, seems terribly sincere. If Ryan stays prominent in the campaign, it could make the difference.

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