Friday, May 06, 2016

The O Factor

The Trump has sounded, and with the sound of battle Republicans are scurrying in all kinds of different directions.  Probably the most significant recalcitrance comes from Speaker Paul Ryan, who said he isn't ready to endorse Trump.  Among others, I took this as an opening gambit, but a New York Times article argues that it isn't--that Ryan is (this time) unlikely to change his mind.

Theories abound on what might happen in November, with the conventional wisdom clustering around a crushing Trump defeat.  But conventional wisdom has been severely undermined by Trump's triumphs so far--without the conventional apparatus of the professional campaign cadres of pollsters, message-massagers etc.

The fears for November cluster around Hillary's weakness as a candidate (perhaps to be further tested by the ongoing investigation into her email account) and by Bernie's persistence leading to a lack of unity and especially a depressed turnout.

But there is one factor not so far added to the mix: the O Factor.  Today President Obama spoke from the press conference podium at the White House, calmly setting the stakes:

"But most importantly -- and I speak to all of you in this room as reporters, as well as the American public -- I just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States.

And what that means is that every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny. It means that you got to make sure that their budgets add up. It means that if they say they got an answer to a problem that it is actually plausible and that they have details for how it would work. And if it's completely implausible and would not work, that needs to be reported on. The American people need to know that. If they take a position on international issues that could threaten war, or has the potential of upending our critical relationships with other countries, or would potentially break the financial system, that needs to be reported on."

The NY Times story on this added: "The comments were a preview of what aides say will be a vigorous presence by Mr. Obama in the general election campaign."

This only makes sense.  President Obama's favorables are high and likely to go higher.  He won the presidency twice.  He speaks with the authority of the office over the past eight years.  Hillary Clinton has already made continuing the Obama policies a mainstay of her campaign.

While Bill Clinton is a great speaker and campaigner, he also manages to get unfavorable headlines with uncomfortable regularity.  President Obama is a steady, calming force, who adds gravitas at the same time as he brings a disarming sense of humor to the campaign dialogue.  And as his past campaigns proved, he is a very good campaigner on the stump.

President Obama is likely to be Hillary's greatest asset, giving her a greater advantage in all the states that he won twice.  Which, by the way, is enough to make her President.

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