The past few weeks I've asked Democrats who supported him how they feel about him. I got back nothing that showed personal investment. Here are the words of a hard-line progressive and wise veteran of the political wars: "I never loved Barack Obama. That said, among my crowd who did 'love' him, I can't think of anyone who still does." Why is Mr. Obama different from Messrs. Clinton and Bush? "Clinton radiated personality. As angry as folks got with him about Nafta or Monica, there was always a sense of genuine, generous caring." With Bush, "if folks were upset with him, he still had this goofy kind of personality that folks could relate to. You might think he was totally misguided but he seemed genuinely so. . . . Maybe the most important word that described Clinton and Bush but not Obama is 'genuine.'" He "doesn't exude any feeling that what he says and does is genuine."Well, maybe. Maybe Obama is an aloof, unloveable guy, bad at retail politics, wrong on policy, a poor communicator (amazingly, after the paeans to his speech-making ability during the 2008 campaign), a poor tactician on Capitol Hill, etc. He's a loser on substantive things. But I don't think that means that he necessarily loses in 2012. Consider:
1. The economy may still be bad, but it likely will be turning around and heading back in the right direction simply as a matter of the business cycle.
2. To the extent that the economy is still bad, he's positioned himself to blame the GOP, and the mainstream media will help him do it with billions of dollars of free advertising (read: the nightly news).
3. The unions will be out in force. Believe it. We're seeing it here in Wisconsin on a small scale. In 2012 it will be huge.
4. He starts with probably a 10% advantage because of the monolithic black vote. They'll turn out again in 2012 to protect their guy.
5. He got Osama bin Laden. Oh, sure, it was an operation long in the works, an operation driven by intelligence derived under the Bush administration's policies. It doesn't matter. He got bin Laden.
6. Most important of all, the GOP has a habit of nominating flawed candidates. Romney would be a flawed candidate (too centrist, and then the big problem of the Massachusetts health care plan that looks a lot like Obamacare). Bachmann? Please. I like her, but she's not ready. Palin? Too much baggage. Rick Perry? He'd be my guy right now, but we don't know much about him, and I wonder whether the nation is ready for another Texas governor.
In other words, you can beat Obama with a generic Republican, but I don't know if you can beat him with an actual Republican.
So, is he a "loser"? I hope so. But it will be a close-run thing. And, if he wins in 2012, look out. We're really screwed.