Separate from the birther constellation is a cluster of beliefs with fairly high magnitude. Obama's style is conciliatory and concessional. Even liberals don't seem to know precisely where Obama wants to lead them. It's not a question of goals; it's a question of guts. Where will he fight? Perhaps his new deficit-cutting plan will show the way. This grade, incidentally, is given without reference to his potential opponents. Throw a Republican with an identity crisis into this mix and Obama's grade rises.
Campaign Team: A. Obama's reelection team is experienced, trusted, and not riven by the usual infighting that besets campaigns. It's true that they're cocky, but after any number of near-death experiences with health care and other issues, their hubris is a bit more muted. It must here be noted that several potential GOP opponents -- notably Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney -- are putting together A-list campaign teams too.
Leadership: C. Americans are not sure about Obama's leadership skills. A small majority see him as a leader, a number that has been in steady decline since he was elected, according to a Gallup poll of 1027 adults that was conducted March 25-27. Fewer than half think he can manage the government (see CNN/OPR poll).
One version of the case posits that Obama has spent way too much time blaming predecessors even as he continued Bush policies, from TARP to Guantanamo Bay. His leadership skills tie into his political identity. He seems rudderless at times. His advisers will say that Obama wants to fix problems and is a pragmatist, and that external events have made it all but impossible to chart a straight course and follow it. That may be true, but the challenge is to convince the American people that this style of governing is the right one.
Attributes and Values: A. Americans like Obama; they trust that he wants the best for them--even if they don't quite know what that is; they see him as honest, on their side, and likable (see Gallup). This will be a significant asset. It helped carry President Bush to reelection in 2004.
Organization: A. Regardless of whether there's a drop-off in volunteer intensity early on, there's no question that Obama's reelection operation will be formidable and well-funded enough to compete with whatever Republicans are able to construct. This includes outside groups who will try to chip away at Obama in battleground states. Democrats will have well-financed vehicles of their own.
Position Relative to His Opposition: B. The Republican field is unleavened at best. The all-but-declared Republican candidates (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty) all have significant, if resolvable, flaws. Some of those thought to be considering the race -- from Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to Donald Trump -- threaten to pull the GOP off its rails. Dark-horse challenges could make the field rougher, especially Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana.