Let's review what we have seen from Barack Obama through the two years of his campaign:
- Skills in formal oratory that, in my view, you'd have to go back to John F. Kennedy to match. Bill Clinton could, and can, hold an audience spellbound, but his speeches are a collection of brilliant apercus more than a central argued-out idea. (Illustrative experience: read one of Clinton's books, and read Obama's first book.) In his main speeches, starting with the 2004 Boston convention speech and with a particular highlight in the "Jeremiah Wright" speech about race in Philadelphia, Obama has been both interesting to listen to serious in trying to present a main idea. The other competitor would be Ronald Reagan. I don't think most of his speeches pass the "serious big idea" test, but I know that some people do.
- Skills in using technology to raise money for which there is no real precedent (as Josh Green was one of the first to describe, in this Atlantic article).
- Skills in Get Out the Vote organizational efforts that we saw in the Iowa primary and which we're primed to look for next Tuesday.
- Skills in one-on-one debating technique that led to all three presidential debates being seen by the public as big Obama wins. And now, with the informercial:
- Skills in telling stories (and evoking emotions) through pictures that we associate mainly with Reagan and no one since.
- And (update) skill in personal presentation, which means that the candidate is never seen as being testy, rarely seems rattled, seems to know where he wants to go and makes some progress every day -- the only candidate this really resembles is Ronald Reagan.
We can wonder later on -- and, minus something we can't now imagine, we can wonder pretty soon -- about the organizational and analytic skills Obama will display in office. But as a collection of talents brought to bear in a campaign, this is quite remarkable. And the sequential underestimations -- by the Hillary Clinton camp, and now by the Republicans -- will merit future analysis.