For all of his high-minded rhetoric and intoxicating effect on journalists, Barack Obama (as even his most ardent fans concede) may not relate well to the average voter. He is not an approachable, very warm guy. He doesn’t smile or get impassioned about much of anything. Call it “cool” or call is removed, but he does not share the usual politicians’ love for engaging voters individually. Bill Clinton was the master and even George W. Bush in one-on-one interactions (e.g. comforting military families) was known to be empathetic and “present” — that is, emotionally engaged. It is not just on an emotional level, of course, that Obama has removed himself from the fray. Obama has made a career of being intellectually distant and evasive.
It is an odd personality for a professional politician, one that aims to intoxicate and mesmerize large crowds rather than engage individuals. And when that crowd intoxication dims (or is subject to ridicule) voters are left scratching their heads. Who is he? Does he understand us? What makes him tick? These are all unanswered questions about a figure who has skated by without having to reveal much about who his is.
Perhaps he will introduce himself at the Convention. It would be a good idea since most voters, if pressed, would acknowledge that they don’t know much about his basic personality and core values. That he has gotten this far without revealing very much about himself is a tribute to the media’s lack of curiosity and the (now-dissipating) spell he had cast on the electorate.