Obama campaign aides' gain is president's pain

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What went wrong? One need look no further than the heady days after the election, when his cocky campaign aides offered their own beliefs beyond the rout of Romney. Team Obama had a better ground game. Team Obama had better polling. Team Obama understood the shifting electorate better. What was missing? Um, credit to Obama?


That narrative glaringly lacked the premise that Obama won because the public believed in him and his vision for the country. In their haste to promote themselves, some of Obama’s aides turned him into a product that they masterfully marketed. Legacies aren't built around a narrative of great voter databases.

But that's what we got.

“Obama win hinged on ground game, tech,” was the verdict when reporters listened to campaign manager Jim Messina's analysis at the Harvard's Institute of Politics election post-mortem. Well, that certainly makes Mr. Messina look good, doesn’t it?

So while no doubt that narrative made campaign aides brilliant, it also marginalized the president at just the wrong time. It stole his claim for a mandate. Now some of those aides are off making money and he’s inexplicably struggling to rediscover his presidential voice four years into the job. Not good.

You can be sure that President Clinton or President Bush didn’t allow campaign aides to steal their post-election thunder. Harold Ickes and Karl Rove would never have allowed it. Clinton and Bush each had their own second-term blues, some self-inflicted, but post election their teams drove a message that the commander in chief won a second term to complete the mission at hand.

Obama wasn’t as lucky. Now he’s stuck trying to decide whether to be good cop or bad cop. Once again, the president has lost hold of the narrative. Never before has such a brilliant communicator struggled as a story-teller.

Maybe he’ll get lucky and job numbers will continue to improve, which will surely help him get his groove back. And certainly Republicans will bail him out by overreaching, which is in their nature. But in the meantime, President Obama looks like a leader who has lost his way, thanks in part to the same folks he relied on to win re-election.

Galvin is a former political reporter for the New York Daily News who is now CEO of 463 Communications.

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