Elsewhere on The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky began with a post by my colleague Garance Franke-Ruta arguing that Obama seems weary and took it to an extreme conclusion: "Someone needs to ask the cut-to-the-chase question: is he enthusiastic about keeping this job, or he is just maybe tired of being president?" (His headline was the even blunter "Does Obama Even Want to Win the Election?") Tomasky looked deep into Obama's soul, by what means he doesn't reveal, and saw an ego perhaps too bruised to hold on. "I doubt Obama had ever been hated by anybody in his life. Now, 40 or so million Americans hate him. Must be stunning to him, still," he wrote.
It's not just liberals. The Washington Examiner's Byron York is ready to diagnose ADD from a distance, Bill Frist-style. "A look at the president's career shows he has never stayed in a job four years without looking to move on to something better," York said. "His entire career suggests that by now he should be angling for a bigger, better job. The problem is, there isn't such a position -- and a second term in the same old job doesn't count."
Henry Porter of the Observer, the British Sunday newspaper, walks right up to the precipice, asking, "Has a disillusioned Barack Obama lost the will to win?" Porter says that the president could be forgiven for "a subconscious desire to quit the White House and withdraw to Harvard or Chicago to write books." But he eventually steps back: "Judging by his punchy speeches at the end of last week, Obama still has an appetite for the job. Something that is forgotten in all the performance reviews of Denver is that the debate brought out the ideological differences of the two men in vivid detail."
I'm old enough to remember when Obama was running away with the election. It was early last week.
It's surprising anyone has to explain this, but this meme is problematic for two big reasons: It privileges pundits' self-proclaimed powers of telepathy and interpreting body-language over the balance of the available evidence. And what hard evidence there is suggests just the opposite.
I'm old enough to remember when Obama was running away with the election. It was early last week. He had taken a close race and gathered a decent lead of a few points in the polls. One pundit even approvingly cited a blog post suggesting that the president could win in a landslide and wrote a cover story for a major magazine speculating on how Obama would become "the Democrats' Reagan" when (not if) he won reelection. That pundit's name was ... Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan was perhaps irrationally exuberant about the president's chances, but given Obama's strong performance on the stump and in the polls prior to the election, there was no reason to doubt his commitment to the race.
And yet after 90 minutes on the stage in Denver, Sullivan, Tomasky, et al. are ready to write him off. Underlying all of this handwringing is lingering hero worship. If Obama is losing, or even just losing ground, they seem to believe, it can only be because Obama isn't trying. It's out of the question that Romney might be running a strong campaign, or that voters might be disaffected with a president who's failed to change the system as radically as he promised and has overseen an economy that, while improving, remains weak.