“It is often said in politics that a candidate’s strength is also his weakness,” writes Matt Bai in a 10.19 N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine piece about Barack Obama and working-class whites. “Obama’s greatest asset as a candidate, the trait that has enabled him to overcome both a thin resume and the resistance of his own party’s establishment, is his placidity.
“Even more than through his ability to give a rousing speech (plenty of other candidates, from Ted Kennedy to Howard Dean, could do that), Obama has differentiated himself from recent Democrats by conveying a sense of inner security that is highly unusual in a business of people who have chosen to spend every day asking people to love them. He does not seem like a candidate who’s going to switch to earth tones in his middle age or who’s going to start dressing up in camouflage to rediscover his inner Rambo. Obama is content to meet the world on his terms, and something about that inspires confidence.
“And yet that same lack of pathetic neediness may in fact be a detriment when it comes to persuading voters who, culturally or ideologically, just aren’t predisposed to like him. I once heard a friend of Obama’s compare him with Bill Clinton this way: if Clinton sees you walking down the other side of the street, he immediately crosses over to shake your hand; if Obama sees you coming, he nods and waits for you to cross.”
And by the same token, it can probably be assumed that if he makes a small mistake, Barack Obama would never stick his tongue out and go “aaaahhh!” like John McCain briefly did after last night’s debate. This is a very appealing trait. It’s a Republican/conservative thing to briefly wig out and be theatrical (like that awful female MSNBC daytime news anchor whom I can’t stand) but it’s also a loose, what-the-hell thing to do in front of a mixed crowd, and something in me responds well to this.