According to Intrade Barack Obama is the odds-on favorite to be re-elected to the presidency.
The conventional wisdom agrees.
Still, I am inclined to join William Kristol in casting doubt on the conventional wisdom.
Stock market prognosticators often trade against the conventional wisdom. They believe, based on very good evidence, that if a strong consensus believes that the market will go up it increases the likelihood that it will go down. And vice versa.
As you know, it’s called contrarian investing.
Kristol applies this thinking in a recent post:
Here’s how Reuters recently summed up the race for the White House: “The 2012 presidential election is more than six months away, but here is what we know so far: It is going to be close, it is going to be nasty, and the outcome could turn on a series of unpredictable events.” The argument that followed was balanced and intelligent, and nicely captured today’s conventional wisdom.
But the conventional wisdom may well be wrong. We don’t in fact “know” that the election will be close. Nor do we know that it will be nasty, or that it will turn on unpredictable events. To the contrary, if I had to put money down now, I’d bet that Mitt Romney will win an easy victory after a relatively predictable, issue-focused, and not-too-nasty campaign. Indeed, I’d bet Romney will win precisely if he runs such a campaign. But if he allows the race to degenerate into name-calling and gotcha gimmicks, he could lose. Democrats are better than Republicans at the small and nasty stuff.
For my part I have suspected that the Obama camp is more worried than it lets on.
In 2008, the Democratic Party and the mainstream media guilt-tripped America into voting for a man with no qualifications. To obscure the question of Obama’s qualifications they launched a brutally effective attack against the qualifications of Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.
It was a magic trick then. It’s a magic trick still. Only now, everyone knows how it’s done.
After reading Peggy Noonan’s column this morning, I am even more inclined to believe that Kristol is right.
Noonan paints a portrait of an Obama campaign in general disarray, a candidate who has nothing to say, talking to audiences that have heard it all so many times that they no longer grant it any credence.
It’s a campaign that is running on fumes. In Noonan’s words:
And this president is always out there, talking. But—and forgive me, because what I'm about to say is rude—has anyone noticed how boring he is? Plonking platitude after plonking platitude. To see Mr. Obama on the stump is to see a man at the podium who's constantly dribbling away the punch line. He looks pleasant but lacks joy; he's cool but lacks vigor. A lot of what he says could have been said by a president 12 or 20 years ago, little is anchored to the moment. As he makes his points he often seems distracted, as if he's holding a private conversation in his head, noticing crowd size, for instance, and wishing the front row would start fainting again, like they used to.
Later she adds:
If you have nothing to say, does it matter that you have endless venues in which to say it?
If a candidate cannot run on a record of accomplishment, Noonan continues, he can argue that he is a more familiar face. When given a choice between familiar and strange most people tend to choose the familiar.
Familiar feels like a friend. Strange feels like a potential foe.
Thus, Obama will suggest that people should not take a risk with an unknown quantity when they have someone they know about.
That would be a normal way to think of things. Unfortunately, Noonan continues, the more people get to know Obama the less they like him. Increasingly he and his administration are being defined by their incompetence.
In her words:
There is a growing air of incompetence around Mr. Obama's White House. It was seen again this week in Supreme Court arguments over the administration's challenge to Arizona's attempted crackdown on illegal immigration. As Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News wrote, the court seemed to be disagreeing with the administration's understanding of federal power: "Solicitor General Donald Verrilli . . . met resistance across ideological lines. . . . Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's only Hispanic and an Obama appointee, told Verrilli his argument is 'not selling very well.' " This follows last month's embarrassing showing over the constitutionality of parts of ObamaCare.
All of this looks so bush league, so scattered. Add it to the General Services Administration, to Solyndra, to the other scandals, and you get a growing sense that no one's in charge, that the administration is paying attention to politics but not day-to-day governance. The two most public cabinet members are Eric Holder at Justice and Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security. He is overseeing the administration's Supreme Court cases. She is in charge of being unmoved by the daily stories of Transportation Security Administration incompetence and even cruelty at our airports. Those incidents and stories continue, but if you go to the Homeland Security website, there is no mention of them. It's as if they don't even exist.
In 2008 many Americans overlooked the competence issue and Obama’s achievement deficit because they thought that he was the smartest guy in the room.
There was no real evidence to prove the point, but a substantial number of people browbeat themselves into believing it.
Now, it is more and more difficult to hold fast to the belief that the executive branch is in the hands of the best and the brightest.
One need but look to the administration’s two most recent debacles at Supreme Court oral arguments.
To the general dismay of those who inhabit liberal precincts the administration’s lawyer, Donald Verrilli seemed not up to the task. On two issues that are vitally important for the administration, Obamacare and immigration reform, two issues where, if you read the mainstream media, the truth lies wholly with the Obama administration, Verrilli seemed to be dazed and confused.
Unable to answer the questions posed by the justices, Verrilli was outclassed by former Bush administration Solicitor General, Paul Clement.
If you are more bush league than the Bush administration, you have a problem.
Whatever the court decides, the oral arguments showed, to those who follow such matters closely, that the Obama administration is being run by second-rate minds who got their jobs for reasons that have little to do with their abilities.
Everyday citizens do not pay very close attention to these things, but the media elites who threw their wholehearted support behind Obama certainly do.
Four years ago they cheered a man who was just like them. If he starts giving people the impression that he is intellectually challenged they will be threatened by a loss of face and a loss of credibility as great thinkers.
At the least, they will curb their enthusiasm for Obama.
The conventional wisdom has it that the media will be Obama’s most fervent cheerleader. Whether you agree with Peggy Noonan or rely on contrarian thinking, it seems fairly clear that Obama is losing, if he has not already lost, the media support that catapulted him into the White House last time.