In the latest Washington Post poll, Barack Obama continues to lead John McCain among likely voters 50 percent to 46 percent. This, after sinking hard in the polls from the summer through the respective political conventions.
That Obama leads at all - and that lead has diminished from the previous survey - has more to do with, as the Post reports, "negativity about the country's financial prospects" than any particular proposal or piece of rhetoric the candidate has put forward. Despite his clear ability to energize people and haul in buckets of cash, there have been and there continue to be elements to Obama's campaign which are troublesome harbingers of what kind of president he could be. One who's distracted and reactive, rather than focused and proactive. One who's constantly moving to a rhythm set by others.
In the Democratic primary Obama was constantly reacting to nontroveries - Jeremiah Wright and his vanishing lapel pin - and was unable to decisively "finish off" Senator Clinton.
He bit at McCain's accusations that he had not spent enough time overseas. He traveled to the Middle East and Europe to great international acclaim but a public yawn here at home. That cost him. Obama had enjoyed an average 7 point lead over McCain in the polls in late June. By the time he held his rally in Berlin that differential was cut in half.
When the conflict in South Ossetia began, Obama read tepid remarks and equivocated.
The force of Obama's monumental acceptance speech was blunted by McCain's selection of Sarah Palin, then made worse by Team Obama's seeming inability to coherently respond to Palin on the Republican ticket.
Early September saw a ten point shift in favor of McCain.
Then the bottom dropped out of the economy and John McCain could not hide from the stink of deregulation run amok.
Between now and November 4th Obama may need to do literally nothing to get into the White House. Just let John McCain arbitrarily suspended his campaign when he sees fit (or in the case of Michigan, fully suspend it), and let the Couric/Palin interviews continue.
Perhaps there is some sweet science to be admired in the tactic of merely allowing your opponent to implode. The rope-a-dope of politics.
It may be the only campaign style Obama knows.
The bolt of the decisive fight isn't in Obama's quiver. In his last major campaign his opponent, Jack Ryan, was forced to drop out of the race prior to Alan Keyes getting airdropped into Illinois as the great black hope.
But the presidency in general - and I believe 44th presidency in particular - does not and cannot suffer come-what-may-isms. It doomed Jimmy Carter, and it doomed any number of Democratic candidates who never made it to the White House.
Let's hope president Obama, different from candidate Obama is more proactive rather than deus ex machina.
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