By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Obama difference

To quote Alex Beam, I write this with my head, not my heart. I don’t have a dog in the 2008 presidential hunt. But I’m mystified by Beam’s assertion in today’s Globe that Barack Obama is this year’s version of Howard Dean, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley and Bruce Babbitt.

Dean, Tsongas, Bradley and Babbitt were all utterly without charisma; Dean and Bradley came across as rather unpleasant fellows to boot. Tsongas, Bradley and Babbitt got a big boost from media types who were suckers for their cerebral, moderate politics. (Yes, Bradley ran as a liberal in 2000, but that wasn’t his reputation as a senator.) Dean was the darling of the netroots, but actual voters never warmed up to him.

By contrast, Obama oozes charisma. His campaign’s biggest asset, by far, is himself. Members of the Beam Quartet were small-timers trying to break into the the big time. Obama is a big-timer who may not quite be ready.

Obama may or may not be chosen as the Democratic presidential nominee. But if he’s not, it certainly won’t be because he’s suffering from Howard Dean syndrome. And unlike the Beam Quartet, if Obama falls short, I suspect he’ll get another chance somewhere down the line.

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  1. mike_b1

    The Beltway viewpoint is the Democratic nomination is Obama’s to lose. Clinton is seen as too divisive; her negatives are almost as high as her positives. Edwards is seen to have good ideas but is considered a lightweight. Interestingly, McCain is expected to drop out this summer and some of his top advisors plan to jump to Obama when he does.

  2. Scott Allen Miller

    Dean was without charisma? Oh, come on, Dan. Dean’s charisma was his key asset early on, just like Obama’s has been. It led a lot of people who’d never heard of him to coalesce around him early on in 2003. The point remains, though, that this is NOT the time for a campaign to be peaking in the polls! Being in a close second place right now is a good place to be strategically more than half a year before the primaries. An early frontrunner right has more time to stumble. When that inevitably happens, the person immediately behind the stumbler is in position to be first at the finish line.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Scotto: Dean was doing great until Joe Trippi was finally forced to put him in front of actual voters.

  4. Peter Porcupine

    Why, 10,000 back him! Um…maybe 12…(Read Drudge – you’ll understand)

  5. Jack Coleman

    I agree with you, Dan, Beam is too dismissive of Obama. I doubt the Clinton and Edwards campaigns are taking him quite so lightly. Another candidate Beam could have compared him to, though it would have undercut his premise – Jimmy Carter.

  6. Don

    But according to the L.A.Times, he’s “Barack the Magic Negro.”

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