According to the New York Times, “the magic is gone.” According to the New York Post, “the thrill is gone.” And yet, according to the polls, he isn’t a goner. Even if you shave off two-three-four points for Democrat over-sampling and other pollster malarkey, the unmagical non-thrilling President Obama remains remarkably competitive.
Which means that if he wins we won’t have the same excuse as we did last time. In 2008, Senator Obama was lucky, as he has been all his political life: a global downturn, war-weariness, a Republican opponent who even in his better moments gave the strong impression that honor required him to lose . . . These and various other stars all aligned for him. But he himself was the biggest star of all: a history-making candidate, a messianic figure and not merely a national but a planetary healer. Not all of us bought into it even then: I saw him on the stump just the once and thought the silver-tongued orator was a crashing bore. Couldn’t see what the fuss was about. But fuss there was. It’s one thing if the Republican loses to a thrilling, magical superstar; it’s quite another if the Republican loses to a mean, petty, leaden, boring, earthbound hack who hasn’t lit up a room in years. In 2008, the American people said: We like this guy. In 2012, they’d be saying: We like these policies. That’s far more disturbing.