Lucky Obama

Yesterday, surveying the Romney ruins in the aftermath of the Libya fiasco and the 47 percent flap, Nick Gillespie at Reason led his post by declaring, “President Barack Obama is one lucky bastard.” In a very narrow sense, he’s right: Obama has certainly been fortunate to draw two general-election opponents whose political savvy is no match for his. He was lucky in 2004, too, to end up running for U.S. Senate against the unhinged Alan Keyes. But these are the strokes of happy fortune—and propitious timing—that any politician needs to ascend to White House heights. The idea that Obama’s astonishing political rise has been characterized mostly by luck is patently absurd—and it’s this very absurdity that may end up dooming the Republicans’ chances of unseating him in November.

The “Lucky Obama” myth has dominated conservatives’ view of the president from the git-go. Either the guy had to have gotten a ridiculous number of long-shot breaks to become president, their thinking goes, or (in the birther version) he must be the front man of a grand, dark conspiracy. The idea that Obama, if not downright nefarious, is a hopeless lightweight—“in over his head,” as Romney told the infamous gathering of big wigs in Boca Raton—has long been a given in GOP circles. He came out of nowhere, rose prematurely to power on billowy clouds of hope and change and racial correctness, and has floundered in the White House because he’s simply not qualified for the job.

You can be forgiven for catching more than a little whiff of racism in all this—or, at the very least, that good old “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Whatever you call it, the right-wing fantasy of an ineffectual Obama has largely dictated the strategy of the Romney campaign. The Mittster has not run like a challenger taking on a powerful and wily politician: His campaign has been organized around the idea that he basically could not lose. He’s run like an incumbent. The oft-cited reason for this asinine strategy is the laggard economy. But there’s a deeper reason: Team Romney has clearly bought into the conservative idea that Obama couldn’t possibly have earned the job, or deserved it, or done it well. 

The fact that it would require nothing short of political brilliance to become the first black man elected president of the United States—or to defeat the Clinton machine in Democratic primaries to get there—simply doesn’t compute for Romney and the right. The fact that it took some serious leadership skill to pass health-care reform that has been blocked for 100 years? Or to avert a second Great Depression? Pshaw! If Romney ends up losing on November 6, it will mean that the bigotry underlying conservatives’ irrational view of President Obama has backfired on them once again. If there's any "luck" involved in Obama's re-election, it'll be the great good fortune of running against people who are too blind to see him. 

So They Say

“Barack Obama is a drug dealer of welfare.”

—Pat Buchanan

Daily Meme: Circle the Firing Squad

  • In the aftermath of Mitt Romney's horrible, no good, very bad remarks, even the most devoted believers of the Republican creed are feeling a bit like sad Charlie Browns.    
  • Paul Ryan is obviously miffed at Mitt's "obviously inarticulate" spiel in Boca Raton.
  • Mark McKinnon speaks for many GOPers: "I loved Michelle Obama’s line in her speech: 'A presidency reveals who you are.' So do campaigns. And mark me down as one Republican not happy with what is being revealed about Mitt Romney."
  • The Weekly Standard diagnosis? "The likely problem is that Mitt Romney is not a conservative—or at least wasn't a conservative until late in life—but he is running for president as the nominee of the conservative party on a conservative platform. So he has trouble defending conservative ideas. And when he sells himself to conservatives, he sometimes comes across as a right-wing caricature."
  • Luckily, he has no dearth of conservative pundits prepared to tell him what he should have said, and what he should continue saying.
  • Peggy Noonan, the Queen Elizabeth of the Neocons, thinks the situation is desperate. She says it's time for a full-scale intervention. 
  • The American Spectator echoes Noonan: "Romney desperately needs to reset his campaign." 
  • But Mike Tomasky thinks Noonan's prescription won't work: "'When big, serious, thoughtful things must be said then big, serious, thoughtful speeches must be given,' she writes. But what evidence have we ever seen that he’s a big, serious thinker? He’s just not."

What We're Writing

  • Jamelle Bouie dissects the right’s nonsensical attack on “redistribution.”
  • Robert Kuttner: “If the Greeks were right that character is fate, Mitt will keep on delivering for the Democrats.”

What We're Reading

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates explains how “We Are All Welfare Queens Now.”
  • Amy Davidson nails Romney’s politics of resentment.
  • Ana Marie Cox explains the “voter fraud con.”
  • Does Sheldon Adelson really only make up 7 percent of the electorate?
  • Theories abound for what lingers in the missing two minutes of Romney's secret video remarks.
  • Dana Milbank is right. If transatlantic relations went back to War of 1812 levels under President Romney, it would be a big story.
  • Speaking of historical perspective: Is income inequality greater today than it was in 1774?

Poll of the Day

Forty-one percent of registered voters think Mitt Romney has benefitted the most from outside money, while 29 percent think that Obama has come out on top when it comes to super-PAC spending. Regardless of whom voters see as the main beneficiary, most are concerned about big money. Seventy-five percent of registered voters are "very" or "somewhat" concerned by the amount of money being spent by corporations, unions and megadonors.   

For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.

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