Top 10 Political Stories for 2011: Page 5 of 11

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OBAMA: MAN IN SEARCH OF A MESSAGE

Then-Sen. Barack Obama pulled off a sizable feat during this 2008 campaign: he presented himself, simultaneously, as a more passionate pursuer of traditional Democratic objectives than Hillary Clinton, and as a candidate capable of reaching beyond the partisan divide to unite Democrat and Republicans.

The tension between these two ideas has been one of the running themes of his presidency, never more so than this year.

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Obama has sometimes sought to present himself as “the adult in the room,” willing to invite Democratic criticism for the greater good of the nation, as when he sought a grand debt bargain with Speaker John Boehner.

At other times, the president has sought to fire up his base with an appeal centered upon an orthodox liberal view of issues like income inequality and the dangers of untrammeled corporate power.

The quest for a clear crystallization of his reelection message has so far borne little fruit.

His recent speech in Kansas, in which he invoked President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 call for a “New Nationalism” looked like an attempt to build a more populist platform. 

Here are The Hill’s choices for the 10 most important political stories of the year:

Bin Laden | Giffords | Dissent
Message? | Economy | GOP's reign
Reid & McConnell | Debt ceiling | The wire | GOP candidates

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