Obama becoming Democrats' long-awaited answer to Reagan
Published: Sunday, December 17th, 2006
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is running for president. He’s appeared in New Hampshire, where he will need to make a mark, drawing crowds at fund-raisers and autographing his obligatory, pre-campaign memoir. He is running for president, but maybe it’s temporary. Our latest political phenom even made an appearance on the high-profile, Monday night football game last week between the Bears and the Rams. In the spot, he poked fun at all the hype surrounding his presidential tease: “So, tonight I’d like to put all the doubts to rest. And tonight, after a lot of thought and a good deal of soul-searching, I would like to announce to my hometown of Chicago and all of America that I’m ready ...” For the Bears to win the Super Bowl. We and others have pointed out Obama’s minimal experience, especially in foreign policy. We will hear much, much more on that. Today, let’s instead consider what kind of candidate Obama would be. That promotional spot during the football game is a venue reminiscent of Bill Clinton. But the way Obama used the opportunity recalls another popular president. Ronald Reagan and Obama share almost nothing in common except a self-deprecating humor and a way of talking about the future in a hopeful, positive, amiable way that resists criticism. Like Reagan in reverse, Obama can promote a far more powerful Democratic agenda than other candidates, without threatening the vast center of non-partisan voters, many of whom vote on a gut feel rather than scrutinizing platforms. Like Reagan before him, Obama can make them feel all warm and fuzzy about policies with which, in the cold light of reason, they would probably disagree. It is too early to tell if Obama will also share Reagan’s imperviousness to criticism, his “Teflon” coating. All the elements are there, however, and it will drive the Republicans crazy. But turnabout is fair play.
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