All presidents have a tendency to produce reaction in the opposite party. The party out of power develops a (frequently caricature-driven) view of who and what the president is, and tries to produce candidates who will either imitate the president’s perceived bases for success, or theatrically renounce them, or avoid his perceived reasons for failing.
Watching the debate stage, it occurred to me that five of the six remaining Republican candidates mirror, in at least a superficial way, some stage in Obama’s career, like the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future (the exception being John Kasich):
Ben Carson is the Obama of 2004: an impressive stranger who just walked onstage and is really known only for one speech.
Marco Rubio is the Obama of 2008: youth, cool, eloquence, hopeful optimism, appeals to unity, an ideological candidate under a veneer of bipartisanship,
Ted Cruz is the Obama of 2012: a candidate who has given up on the center of the electorate and believes he can win by galvanizing his base around him.
Donald Trump is the Obama of 2016: a man dedicated to trolling, who takes his greatest pleasure from “stray voltage” – acts and pronouncements that spin his critics into a tizzy.
And finally, Jeb Bush is a glimpse of the Obama of 2020 or 2024: a man who is earnestly befuddled by why the world has passed him by and the things that used to work for him just don’t seem that important to the voters anymore.