Could Obama have won big time? Glenn Thrush in Politico argues yes, and I think he’s got a fairly strong case.
First, he notes that Obama’s debate whiff in Denver had multiple factors. One is incumbent-itis, which I expected to be a factor. However, for Obama, it was bigger than with Reagan vs. Mondale. It almost was as bad as Poppy Bush vs. Clinton.
Thrush says that Obama’s moodiness at times, plus his degree of introversion, added to it.
We’ve had introverted presidents before, but Obama is arguably far and away the most introverted president of the electronic media age. Nixon’s the only real competitor, I think.
Even after Denver, from introversion, moodiness, and a Poppy Bush-like WTF, Obama was slow to really hit stride on the campaign trail.
I still don’t think Obama could have done as well as in 2008. But, he could have had Ohio in the bag, made a positive case for stimulus spending, been in an undisputable lead in Florida and possibly leading in North Carolina, had he played things differently. This could have let him do the “positive campaign,” let Biden focus on the bad cop stuff, etc.
Obama then could have done Ali rope-a-dope against Romney, making him be the one to go more negative even earlier than he did.
Of course, all of this gets back to the point that Obama isn’t necessarily that good a politician. He’s not horrible, but he’s not fantastic. He won’t butter them up the same way Clinton did at times, and he won’t put their peckers in his pocket the way LBJ did.
As a result, per the rhetorical questions I’ve posed in the last couple of weeks, don’t be surprised if the Turtle, Mitch McConnell, continues to outmaneuver Obama in his second term.