No, seriously. Every successful campaign that Obama has participated in before 2008 was under the aegis of the Illinois Democratic political machine. He merely had to show up, hit his marks, speak a few times, vote as he was told, and let the targeted leaking of damaging information about his opponents do the rest. That doesn’t require political skill: that requires both the ability to conceal boredom, and excellent bladder control. Then, during the 2008 primary, Obama handed off the details of the primaries to the geeks* and vaguely went off to let them work on building his profile for a VP bid. The geeks then managed to hack the Democratic primary and munchkin the living hell out of it; they found every exploit that existed in the political source code, and used them all**. Again, Obama didn’t have to do a darn thing except show up. And as for the 2008 general election… well. McCain didn’t like to fight, the economy melted down, and Obama showed up.
Only… now it’s 2012, and Obama is going to more or less automatically get the Democratic nomination (although he’s doing worse than expected on that, too), and during the general he’s actually stuck campaigning on his record – which is awful – and facing a candidate that apparently actually wants to win. And Obama’s now apparently not doing so hot. And some people are surprised about that.
And I’m still not entirely sure why.
PS: Some may feel that my characterization of the 2008 general campaign is tendentious, but let me remind those people: I am not the one who is currently surprised at how badly Barack Obama is doing in 2012. In fact, I was calling him a mortal in 2009.
*Which is a non-pejorative term when it’s coming from me, as I am one myself.
**My personal favorite was the dual Texas primary/caucus system, which ended up giving Obama more delegates than Clinton, despite the fact that Clinton beat him by just over a hundred thousand votes in the primary. I have encountered many cheesemonkeys in my time, but David Plouffe pulled off some prime power-gaming there.