Politico is running a symposium: “Is Obama’s brand ‘irrevocably shattered’?” OK, not the discussion the White House wants to see raging. That tells you something right there: the media-Obama love fest is over. The pretext is the Andrew Romanoff scandal. But it could easily have been triggered by the president’s all-time low weekly approval rating (46%) in Gallup or the BP spill or the Joe Sestak flap.
From the earliest days of the campaign, the Obama “movement” contained two political time bombs: First, the curse of absurdly high expectations (“first we’re going to change Iowa! Then we’re going to change America! Then we’re going to change the world!”) And second, electing to office a president with no governing or leadership experience. . . And now the chickens are also coming home to roost on the leadership and competency question. The White House is continually slow-off-the-mark, reactive, defensive, and unsure of its footing, i.e., it appears in over its head.
It will be difficult (if not impossible) to re-build the Obama “brand,” because it never really existed as a tangible thing in the first place.
If Obama isn’t going to get his 2008 marketing brand back, what does he do next? He’s never had to answer that because he’s never stayed in any political position long enough with enough coverage to be held accountable for his results. And he’s never been forced to deviate from his ultra-liberal ideological agenda. It’s also not clear that he is capable of changing his tune or even wants to. One term would be fine, he told us.
The interesting question for 2012 is what sort of candidate would Americans be attracted to as an alternative. Obama ran as Not Bush. (Turns out that most of Not Bush is disastrous.) So who is the Not Obama for 2012? Forget about name guessing — I mean, what kind of candidate would provide voters with what they are missing? It’s fair to anticipate that a competent, experienced, un-flashy, fiscal disciplinarian with no illusions about the world and no hesitancy about naming our enemies and holding dear our friends may be in style. We’ll see in the next year which candidates throw their hats into the ring and which match that description.