JUNE 27, 2008
There seems to be a lot of hand-wringing this morning about whether the sum total of Obama's recent pronouncements and maneuvering--on the FISA bill, on the Supreme Court's child rape decision, the DC gun-ban decision, his campaign-finance opt-out, his joint forums stiff-arm--is turning him into a typical Washington pol and undercutting his appeal. But while there may be something substantively disconcerting about these developments--all things equal, you probably want a president who isn't as comfortable behaving so expediently (he's certainly more comfortable than I'd pegged him to be)--I don't think there's a real political risk for Obama here.
As I argued a few days ago, Obama has such a strong tail-wind behind him that he'll win if "typical pol" is the worst thing you can call him. (He'll still be a typical Democratic pol, after all, which voters say they strongly prefer this year.) The only way he loses, I think, is if voters get the impression he's somehow un-American, un-patriotic, out of the political mainstream, or unable to keep them safe.
To the extent that it draws attention from these insinuations, the "typical pol" charge may even help him somewhat. Thanks to his race, his eloquence, and his relative youth, Obama's just never going to come across as completely typical. In some sense the bigger risk is not being typical enough.