Just about everyone hoping for an Obama victory in November is scratching their heads about the polls showing John McCain either ahead or in a tie with the junior senator from Illinois. It wasn’t supposed to be this way; after all how could the nation have reservations about the millenium’s political rock star, a governmental Messiah, and the second coming of Jack Kennedy?
Pundits, journalists, and bloggers have been concentrating on the usual subjects for the Obama squeaker- inexperience, youth, race, and of course my favorite, the lingering view that he is a Muslim heading a sleeper cell that will bring down the country once he is in the White House. All these reasons for the deadlocked polls have a kernel of truth in them, but let me posit an alternative reason that comes from many years in the halls of academe.
Barack Obama campaigns in the style much like a college professor; he is cerebral, capable of delivering a lecture ( I mean speech ) without notes, confident about his subject matter, and occasionally a little condescending. Obama talks about change, but what the American voters have already figured out is that change would not only be about policy, but also about image and presentation. Now after eight years of George W. Bush forgetting his lines, slashing syntax and earning a D in public relations, Professor Obama is a god send.
But Obama should remember what happened to Al Gore and John Kerry when they thought they had it all over George W. I was there in Boston when Gore kept shaking his head at Bush’s remarks, suggesting that the Texas governor was no match, and I remember chocking on my breakfast cereal when I saw Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket Sound, as if that is what real Americans do for fun. The point here is that Americans don’t want a know it all for President ( although that would be a welcome change). No they want a regular guy who is just like them, or at least kind of like them.
John McCain probably has anger management issues, can’t speak without cue cards, and is certainly no policy wonk. But McCain has what Obama lacks, authenticity. If Obama is to grab the golden ring in November he might try shedding his professorial approach to campaigning and ” get down” with the voters. He might show his ornery side, he might raise his voice in utter contempt for those who are lying about him, and he might use every opportunity to show his patriotism. In other words, he might act like most Americans.