Barack Obama's well-oiled 2008 presidential campaign was widely celebrated "for its exceptional cohesion and eyes-on-the-prize strategic focus," says Glenn Thrush at Politico. This year, not so much. Excerpting his new e-book on the Obama 2012 re-election effort, Thrush says interviews with two dozen current and former members of Obama's team reveal a campaign in Chicago and the White House marked by infighting, trash-talking, and second-guessing. Here, four takeaways from Thrush's Obama's Last Stand:
1. Team Obama is rife with clashing egos
The famously no-drama Obama campaign from 2008 is history, says Thrush. One of the juiciest messes this year was a big spat that left senior political operatives David Axelrod and Stephanie Cutter barely on speaking terms for weeks, apparently because Axelrod was miffed that Cutter took a network TV appearance he'd been requested for. From what Thrush describes, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, "this does not look like a campaign — or an administration — running smoothly and on track for success." Actually, the flare-ups are "fairly small potatoes," says Ian Leslie at Marbury. In fact, "Obama and his team might conclude that if this is the best Politico has got, then they must be doing a pretty good job."
2. Obama likes trash-talking...
"Obama is sometimes portrayed as a reluctant warrior," says Thrush, but all signs point to him embracing the negative campaigning as "a natural — if unpleasant" — part of politics. The president's "trash-talking competitiveness," honed on the basketball court, was on full display in February, when he asked a confidante of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) if Rubio was vying to be Mitt Romney's running mate. When she replied that he might be, Obama chuckled back: "Well, tell your boy to watch it. He might get his ass kicked."
3. ...And despises Mitt Romney
Instead of "hope and change," Team Obama 2012 is driven by one unifying goal: Beating Romney, says Thrush. "Obama really doesn't like, admire, or even grudgingly respect Romney" — a "level of contempt" he doesn't even hold for his worst congressional foe, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) Unlike 2008 opponent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama believes Romney is "weak" and stands for "nothing," according to aides. He's also genuinely worried that if Romney wins, he'll get to pick two conservative Supreme Court justices. And the president is infuriated over the idea that "Romney [might] get to take a victory lap on an economic rebound Obama sees as just around the corner."
4. Obama and Co. aren't hot on the DNC boss
Team Obama is unhappy with the president's handpicked head of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Thrush says, because they think she's "struck too harsh a partisan tone" on Sunday shows and, according to focus groups that Obama's brain trust commissioned, she ranked last in viewer popularity. Wait, "they're shocked their partisan chair is.... partisan?" asks Marc Caputo at The Miami Herald. Well, the more disturbing part of the campaign is the "Nielsen-like rating scheme in place to measure their own senior staff," says Richard Fernandez at PJ Media, "exactly as if they were in show business." That raises the question: Is there anything real about the campaign?
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The big, gaping hole in the liberal policy arsenal
- 10 things you need to know today: July 28, 2014
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The militarization of America’s police
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Blame Obama and U.S. evangelicals for the persecution of Iraqi Christians
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week