David Frum

11.13.12

The Myth of Obama as a Superb Candidate

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I appeared on Lawrence O'Donnell's "Last Word" last night to talk about Why Romney Lost. O'Donnell asked me whether Romney was not a fatally flawed candidate. I answered that while all candidates are imperfect, Romney was not running against the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt either. As an example of President Obama's lack of natural political instinct, I mentioned his odd omission to thank supporters.

I got a lot of pushback from the MSNBC audience via email and Twitter, pointing me to the president's videotaped thanks to his campaign workers and his messages to his supporters.

But I was thinking of moments like this, unscripted and face-to-face:

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Or like the moment in the town hall presidential debate in Hempstead, Long Island, when the president encountered a skeptical formal supporter. A Roosevelt would begin with thanks for past support. In real time, Obama didn't. The president has his abilities, obviously, but he's not such a superb natural campaigner as to have been unbeatable by a Republican challenger offering an attractive message.

PS: A reader writes in:

Though I think you're a little harsh on him (the thanking thing is hairsplitting, frankly), I'm not sure why Democrats cling to the idea that he's some kind of unbeatable political genius. If he doesn't win because of his skills as a campaigner, it implies he does because Democratic ideas are much more popular - which, in fact, they are. That's much more reassuring to liberals, especially as he can never run again.