THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You Can't Lend Charisma

Post Election Analysis:

The day after the election, my Dad was mad. He said, "You know who lost the election for Mayor? Obama!" he said not waiting for an answer. I was worried that senility had come for my Dad in the night. Barack Obama wasn't running for Mayor of New York City. That pseudo contest was between incumbent Michael Bloomberg and challenger Bill Thompson.

It turns out, my Dad was convinced that if the President had spent as much time stumping for Thompson as he did for "everybody else" Thompson would've won. It's easy to believe that especially given how close the race was. Apparently $100 million doesn't buy as much of a margin as you'd think. But Obama campaigned for the governors of New Jersey and Virginia, and they both lost. Extrapolating that out, it’s conceivable that if Obama had endorsed Thompson more vigorously, he could have lost by an even wider margin.

Republicans are cooing that this is a big win for them. And quite frankly they needed it. The Grand Old Party just hasn't been itself since the last presidential election. They are going through an identity crisis of pubescent proportions. Like a desperate 30 something -- the cockiness of their 20s a distant memory -- signing up on E-Harmony, they've been looking for something real to hold onto. But is this the big chink in The Obama Mystique they've been so desperately looking for? It could be.

It's a gross miscalculation to think that everyone in the Democratic party can wrap themselves in the cloak of change and ride the wave to elected office. The losses in Virginia and New Jersey prove that charisma isn't always a tradeable asset. It's like that really cute guy who ambles over, chats you up, and then asks you to go out with his not-so-cute friend whom you didn't notice over at the bar drooling in your general direction. It's the Trojan Horse, Cyrano de Bergerac, bait and switch. And the voters responded in TLC fashion, "No, I don't want no scrubs!" (The grammar checker on my computer insists that this sentence should read, "any" scrubs, but I’ll risk the grammatical error to preserve the intent of the artist.)

I love Barack, but don't misconstrue that for total agreement. I'm still way burnt that the First Dog isn't a mutt and I'm getting tired of hitting the snooze button on health care. That said, I dig Obama, not the Democratic party. There's a reason why I'm still a registered Independent. It helps me keep a healthy level of skepticism of both parties, and not drink too deeply of the ever-changing flavors of called they're pedaling to whomever might be listening at the moment.

In the New York City Mayoral election I was neither delighted by nor interested in either of the candidates. Bloomberg's third term power grab with the help of the City Council was nothing short of disgusting. His money scared off all possible challengers except Thompson. I wondered more than once if Thompson was brave or just plain crazy. Perhaps it was all one big show for the Public’s benefit. The election results already predetermine, the slim margin of victory thrown in for dramatic effect. But that's a little too conspiracy-theory even for me.

The pervasive feeling among the people I talked to about Thompson was, "Is he the best the Democratic Party has to offer? Really? Seriously?" I'm sure he's a nice, hard-working man. Even Mayor Bloomberg had occasion to comment that he was excellent in his job as Comptroller, but you can't fake chemistry.

Maybe Barack didn't campaign harder for Thompson because, deep down, he knew it wouldn't do any good. With 2010 looming, big political promises still to keep, and the Republicans feeling good after their election day make over, maybe President Obama needs to keep a little charisma in reserve for himself.