The best way to understand what is going on in politics this fall is to think of the difference between Facebook and Twitter. Barack Obama in 2008 was a product of Facebook, a one-man brand. The Tea Party counterrevolution of 2010 is more diffuse and fast-moving, a Twitter-based hive mind with no one central figure.
Two years ago in Denver, the charismatic Obama caught the political wave, addressing a blissed-out crowd of 80,000 on a stage set as a Greek temple with him as the high priest of new government activism. But an anti-Democratic tide is building, and if the Republicans can win 39 House seats in November, Boehner could be speaker.
Admittedly, it's a slow news day. Congress is in recess, Obama is on the Vineyard, so reporters such as yours truly find themselves in Cleveland to witness one of those shopworn campaign ploys in action as Rep. John Boehner calls for pink slips for Obama's economic advisers Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. But calling for someone's head is always worth a graph or two in a wire story.
For the third time in three millennia, the city we now know as Istanbul and the country we now know as Turkey are becoming pivotal places in the affairs of the world.
Barack Obama did not descend from the clouds. Polling was involved, as were focus groups and the usual marketing machinery. You didn't hear much about number crunching in 2008; you don't hear much about it now. Obama couldn't, and can't, be seen as unsoiled and sui generis if his handlers talk too much about mechanics.
"Hardball" host Chris Matthews has a theory about Barack Obama: he is running his presidency as though there is no tomorrow—that is, no second term. So far in his presidency Obama has been tackling, even seeking out, sweeping, controversial challenges: the stimulus, the auto bailout, health-care reform, a new arms-control treaty with Russia. So, is he in a hurry because he figures there may be no second term?
Do political candidates still need the press? Based on what's going on in Kentucky, where I began my career, I'm no longer sure. After saying a few weeks ago that a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach, Rand Paul is sticking to safe, controlled venues. A public meeting of Republicans in Louisville was not one of them—two top reporters showed up.
Somewhere between Pensacola and the Oval Office, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico went from an "assault" to an "epidemic"—and President Obama went from commander in chief to surgeon general. And that, in short, is why his speech to the nation fell so flat even as he delivered it.
Election Day 2010 is five months away, so predicting the November bottom line is foolish. But as the primary season grinds on (Tuesday was the biggest day yet), you can get a sense of themes and trends likely to dominate the fall campaigns. Here are a few.
They were an odd couple from the start, a teenage romance that tried—and, after 40 years, failed—to bridge the divides that were inherent in it from the start: political versus nonpolitical Washington; ambition versus another day at the beach; a need to internalize and intellectualize versus the drummer in the band.
If Americans think of Kentucky at all, they tend not to regard it as part of the Deep South on racial matters: no history of water cannons fired at civil-rights demonstrators; the kind of place that gave the world a proud and defiant Muhammad Ali, not a brutal and racist Bull Connor.