The Spectacle Blog

Obama’s Political Skill Vastly Overrated

By on 10.25.11 | 4:16PM

Ramesh Ponnuru, writing in Bloomberg View, points out that President Obama's fabled political talents, contrary to popular impression, are meager:

But take a closer look at Obama's rise and a hole in his resume quickly becomes apparent: Obama never had to fight for and win the votes of people who don't agree with him. Both his biggest political setback and his biggest political accomplishment -- his defeat by Bobby Rush in a 2000 U.S. House primary and his victory over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 -- came during struggles within a liberal universe.

He didn't have to fight for moderate and conservative voters in the Senate election in Illinoisin November 2004 because his first Republican opponent self-immolated in scandal and his second was Alan Keyes, a fringe figure who came from out of state to run.

Nor was Obama tested in the general election of 2008. To be sure, he showed impressive message discipline during that campaign. Even when he briefly fell behind Senator John McCain in the late summer and many Democrats started to get nervous, he kept to his strategic plan. But he also had the most favorable set of circumstances for any out-party candidate for the presidency since 1932.

One of the most overrated aspects of the Obama campaign was its use of social media. In fact, just yesterday the Obama team once again demonstrated that it really doesn't understand new media. 

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