Nearly every day on the program, Alex and the panel discuss the factors fueling the Presidential horse race, and occasionally the conversation trends toward the personal. In other words, the focus turns to the man, not the candidate. And while it makes for a good talking point, we often overlook its actual impact on an election. One opinion piece that addresses this (and had the NOW team talking about in our planning meeting today) is that of The New York Times’ David Brooks. In his column, Brooks uses recent polling data and the analysis from a couple of political experts to posit the question, “Why is Obama even close?” Based on the findings, he argues “the economic mood of the country is terrible,” “Obama has governed from the left but the country…has shifted to the right” and “Obama has lost support among crucial constituencies.” In other words, Brooks claims, President Obama should “go the way of Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy — incumbents who were trounced in hard times.”
This all leads to the piece’s main question, “how has he stayed so competitive?” The secret, Brooks says, is the President’s leadership style, which some have dismissed as “cool” and “aloof.” However, Brooks describes this as a strength, saying the key to President Obama’s popularity during this troubling period “is that he is not melodramatic, sensitive, vulnerable and changeable.” He calls it an “ESPN masculinity: postfeminist in his values, but also thoroughly traditional in style - hypercompetitive, restrained, not given to self-doubt, rarely self-indulgent.” Brooks goes on to compare the Obama re-election campaign to President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996: “strong partisan attacks combined with an emphasis on small and medium-sized policies.” It is that approach and strategy, Brooks says, that has kept the “slight underdog” incumbent “afloat.” Thus, Brooks sums up this “manliness” as “postboomer in policy but preboomer in manners in reticence.” It sounds quite a bit like the qualities that many hard-working, sports-watching, family-oriented men try to emulate in this modern society of ours. The kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with. How very ESPN indeed.