Politics

09.03.12

Obama’s Supporters Cool the Room in Charlotte

Early arrivals to the Democratic Convention are already framing Obama as the unexcitable, even-tempered choice. Lloyd Grove on the game of managing expectations.

Never mind hope and change—or at least the euphoric hope and sweeping change that characterized Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

The message this week in Charlotte, N.C., site of the Democratic National Convention that will nominate President Obama for a second term, is incremental change and a tiny sliver of hope.

“Absolutely...we’re better off!” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, chairman of the convention, insisted Monday morning at Politico’s Playbook Breakfast. “Are we where we want to be? No way!”

It’s arguable whether “No way!” will ignite the Democratic faithful as effectively as “Yes, we can!” Villaraigosa managed to lower the temperature even further by promising that Obama is a “centrist” and will govern “down the centrist path” if given half a chance.

The Republicans and Mitt Romney, by contrast, are running as right-wing crazies, Villaraigosa suggested. “One of the reasons I believe we will win is they’ve just gone too far to the right,” he said. The mayor even predicted that Obama, who won North Carolina by a razor-thin margin last time and is running behind Romney in this nominally red state, will repeat his victory here in 2012.

Former White House videographer Arum Chaudhary, who preceded Hizzoner to the stage with Politico’s grand inquisitor Mike Allen, likewise depicted the president as just as unexcitable and even-tempered off-camera as he is on.

“He is the opposite of a ham,” said Chaudhary, who followed Obama with his camera from the campaign to the Oval Office. “He’s a very kosher president.”

“He is the opposite of a ham. He’s a very kosher president.”

It was all part of what appeared to be a coordinated strategy to depict Obama as “likable enough”—the epithet he famously applied to Hillary Clinton during one of their primary debates four-and-a-half years ago.

Advertising consultant Chaudhary, whose new book is titled First Cameraman: Documenting the Obama Presidency in Real Time, regaled his audience with various humanizing anecdotes that portrayed his former boss as anything but the incompetent left-wing radical of Republican imaginings.

“The president has a very unique temperament and personality that is the same on and off camera,” Chaudhary said. “He really is a calm, even-tempered person…[He] is an intensely curious person. He is very much a dad in that way. He wants to know one more thing and how you know that—he’s very dad-like…He has an incredible mind and wants to know a lot of things.”

Also, not surprisingly, extremely competitive—a trait he shares with every politician with a pulse. “He’s also a very smart competitor,” Chaudhary added.

The videographer, who spent hundreds of hours in Obama’s company, up close and personal, and shot hundreds of hours of video destined for the official archives that will ultimately be available to historians, recounted a poker game he once played with Obama. When Chaudhary made an obviously thoughtless bet, the president teased: “You’re not really playing the game. You’re just gambling. I’m a little sad about it.”

Chaudhary summed up: “I think the American people get this president. That’s why his numbers are stubbornly good.”

“Stubbornly okay,” Allen corrected.