Barack Obama: The Luckiest Politician Alive

Why on earth isn’t Obama in trouble? Chalk it up to Romney’s incessant bumbling—and the greatest streak of good fortune in recent political history. By Matt Latimer

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

I don’t know about you, but if President Obama ever heads to Las Vegas I’m placing my chips wherever he does. Our commander in chief presides over a dismal economy, high unemployment, a turbulent international situation, a massive debt, and comes across as aloof and arrogant even to his friends. And he is leading in most public-opinion polls.

Napoleon Bonaparte reportedly said that he’d rather have a lucky general than a good one.That’s how Democrats are feeling these days about their president. Somewhere Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush are cursing the fates. What’s a guy got to do these days to lose an election?

It’s amazing when you consider it. For the last three years millions have been spent on campaign commercials, countless thousands have been devoted to campaign consultants and pollsters, many hundreds of people have been gathered in focus groups across the country to tell candidates what to say, and think, and even how to dress. And yet this election may simply come down to pure dumb luck. Historians one day may be asked to contemplate whether, in fact, Barack Obama is the luckiest person in American political history.

To be fair, Mitt Romney’s campaign is doing its part. Take this week, for example. It started with Clint Eastwood still trying to explain his weird convention speech that despite making absolutely no sense proved far more compelling than that of the Republican nominee. “If somebody’s dumb enough to ask me to go to a political convention and say something,” the movie star told one outlet, “they’re gonna have to take what they get.” Can’t argue with that.

This was followed by leaks to Politico from top advisers to the Romney campaign who wanted to make sure everyone knew they had nothing to do with this disaster. Note to Governor Romney: if you want to know who is behind this story, they are the only people who are praised in it. (Some of them also contributed to George W. Bush’s record-low approval ratings, but I digress.) Showing the leadership qualities America has come to expect, Romney responded to this clear attempt to intimidate him by caving in. He quickly announced that he’d have one of these advisers conduct a briefing for the press and then also took their advice to start talking about issues other than the economy. Did I mention what these people did for George W. Bush?

Then of course there was the leaked tape recording of the multimillionaire Romney writing off half the nation as a bunch of dimwitted deadbeats not worth his time.

Then there was Romney’s weird interview with Kelly Ripa, in which he reveals that his guilty pleasures are “peanut-butter sandwiches” and “chocolate milk.” It’s official: the Republicans have nominated Howard Cunningham for President of the United States. Is it just me or did Ripa cringe after Romney was asked what he wore to bed and he replied, “I think the best answer is as little as possible?”

And just to add a little more joy to Romney’s week—yes, this all happened in just one week—a spate of new polls shows him falling behind Obama in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.

Last weekend Saturday Night Live opened its 1,000,000th season with “Barack Obama” marveling at his recent good fortune. But in truth the evidence of Obama’s almost superhuman luck has been mounting for years. It started in 2006, when Obama first decided to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. Republicans in the state sensed Obama’s potential, so who from among a long list of qualified candidates did they choose to challenge him? A failed presidential candidate from Maryland, Alan Keyes. Yes, the same Alan Keyes who staged a hunger strike when he was excluded from a debate, who once threw himself into a mosh pit, and who can predict how Jesus will vote in various elections. The same Alan Keyes who had a television show on MSNBC that his producers viciously titled “Alan Keyes Is Making Sense”—a program during which Keyes inexplicably changed from a suit to a sweater in the middle of each show.

Then, in 2008, presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton ignored the polls and the advice of some of her aides, and decided to compete to win in Iowa, where she was running third. Her decision made Obama’s eventual victory all the more devastating, leaving her literally in tears. Obama never really looked back, even as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright hit the airwaves and a tape leaked out where he belittled those who “cling to their guns and religion.” Colin Powell jumped on board the bandwagon, then Oprah.

This year, of all the people the Republican electorate could have picked to challenge Obama, they choose the guy who lost to McCain four years earlier or, as someone once put it, “the guy who lost to the guy who lost.” Maybe the “birthers” have a point after all. Obama obviously wasn’t born in America; he was born on Fantasy Island, under a rainbow, in a pot of gold, serenaded by unicorns.

Despite all of this, Romney isn’t out of it yet, of course. He never will be, as long as the economy remains sluggish. But this is not where the Republican nominee expected to be at this point in the race, clinging to the one poll in five that offers him any good news at all. And of course, even the longest lucky streaks eventually run out. But if I were hanging around this president, I’d start asking him to pick my lottery numbers.