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The Real Obama

Missing in action.

11:00 PM, Nov 5, 2007 • By DEAN BARNETT
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Obama's policy ideas often seem half-baked. His foreign policy prescriptions, especially his offers of instant summitry to the world's leading tyrants, don't look like the product of a highly intelligent person who has given such matters a lot of thought.

And then there's his uneven personality. Obama has been unable to strike the right balance between the different personae that different people admired. He's a thoughtful guy, but at debates his thoughtfulness usually makes him look boring and low energy. But he's not boring and low energy. By all accounts, he's a charismatic and dynamic guy. Yet when he tries to show his vigor, he does silly things like appear on Saturday Night Live wearing a Barack Obama mask.

ODDLY ENOUGH, Obama has a secret sharer of sorts on the Republican side. Mitt Romney also is extremely well liked and respected by just about everyone who has run across him outside of politics. Like Obama, Romney has a curriculum vitae that fairly screams "electric intelligence."

A short while ago, a friend asked me in regards to Romney (knowing that I've known, respected and liked Romney for over a decade), "How come no one likes him?" On some level, the inquiry got at something important. Romney has yet to knock 'em dead in any of the national polls. As is the case with Obama, the public really hasn't seen the Mitt Romney that his friends, acquaintances, and business relations so admire.

Still, in terms of the horserace, Romney is doing much better than Obama. The voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina like him well enough. Where he's made himself known, Romney is viewed differently than in other parts of the country where the mainstream media caricature of him defines him.

While Romney isn't exactly the Republican's presumptive nominee, his path to the nomination is much more realistic than Obama's. If Romney can hold his leads and momentum in the early states, he'll be tough to beat. Obama will need a Hillary Clinton self-destruction and then some luck as well.

Why has Romney done better than Obama to date, even though Obama is a far more gifted speaker? If you watch the Romney campaign closely, you get the unmistakable sense that everything has been planned out for months if not years. The candidate knows what he wants to say, and how, when, and where he wants to say it.

Obama, on the other hand, is an accidental candidate. No one thought he'd be a presidential candidate five years ago, and he has no experience running anything, let alone something as unwieldy and significant as a modern presidential campaign. His campaign has been a confused thing. The candidate himself often seems confused.

There's still time for the man that I've heard is the real Obama to emerge. If he does, he'll be formidable. But time is growing short.

Dean Barnett is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.