When the New York Times sends reporters to compare and contrast the Romney and Obama campaign styles, little surprise who comes off looking best. The banner headline on the front of Monday's special Campaign 2012 section set the scene: "Two Campaigns With Styles as Similar as Red and Blue."
Ashley Parker and Michael Barbaro trailed the Republica candidate in Iowa and found that while "Earnest and Efficient, Romney Spares the Subtlety." (Because electoral campaigns are typically known for subtlety.)
Mitt Romney’s campaign events are an homage to patriotism and Americana, draped with flags large enough to be hung 70 feet high from a crane and drenched in Rodney Atkins country music so loud that the speakers throb.
They rouse audiences to their feet with Mr. Romney’s promises to repeal President Obama’s health care law (“on Day 1!”) and build the Keystone XL pipeline (“if I have to do it myself!”).
They are a place for voters, mostly white and older, to channel their economic apprehensions about big government into homemade bumper stickers denouncing “O-bum-a” and T-shirts declaring “I am pro-America, anti-Obama.”
What they are not: subtle.
By contrast, a completely positive headline is pasted over Helene Cooper's Ohio campaign jaunt with Obama: "Relaxed and Loose, Candidate Obama Hits His Mark." Cooper positively noted Obama's transformation into a classic politician:
During his three-minute chat on Tuesday with the man introducing him to 3,300 supporters at a campaign rally here, President Obama achieved four must-dos in every politician’s instruction manual.
Display Familiarity: “Steven!” Mr. Obama called out, striding into the holding room where a nervous Steven DeBusk, 26, awaited, clutching his opening remarks. “You’re a BMX cyclist? I’ve been watching those guys on TV during the Olympics.”
Display Arcane Knowledge: After Mr. DeBusk said that he does not race around the track like in the Olympics (although he has, he said, learned to fall on his shoulder instead of his rump), Mr. Obama nodded. “Yeah, you ride freestyle,” he said, stunning the Capital University senior with his apparent knowledge of the difference between street BMX and the track runs.
Use Available Prop: Seconds later, Mr. Obama turned to his body man, Marvin Nicholson. During the Olympics, “they were falling all over the place, weren’t they?” Mr. Obama said. Mr. Nicholson nodded vigorously.
Show You’ve Paid Attention: Exactly 2 minutes and 53 seconds into the interchange, Mr. Obama was patting Mr. DeBusk on the back and showing him out the door. “Break a shoulder!” Mr. Obama said.
It is campaign season, and Barack Obama is on. He is relaxed. His squeamishness about edgy partisanship is long gone. And he does not start late or run over.
Cooper (pictured) even provided a handy excuse for the decline in crowd size and enthusiasm for the president.
In a re-election campaign in which his mostly multiracial crowds are smaller than in 2008 (he is no longer the fresh new face, and the Secret Service frowns on those 100,000-plus throngs), Mr. Obama is a scheduler’s dream, a walking, talking, handshaking, baby-hugging prototype of campaign efficiency. He takes less than a second to shake a hand and in 10 seconds can polish off seven greetings.