The latest pol in Ryan Lizza's hot chair—and the first to grace the cover of Esquire in 15 years—is Barack Obama, the "perpetually second-place Dem optimism junkie," as Wonkette puts it. Here are the key passages:
Why he's an anti-populist:
As he listens to their concerns and gently corrects them, or offers a contrasting view, it’s apparent that one of the biggest challenges for Obama in winning over voters like these is that there isn’t an ounce of populism in him. He is in many ways an antipopulist—measured and rational rather than fiery and demagogic. He never rails against big corporations or fat-cat lobbyists or George W. Bush, even though his stump speech is filled with critiques of all three. Most recent reform candidates have been populist reformers, and both John Edwards and, to a lesser extent, Hillary Clinton are hitting populist notes in Iowa. But Obama seems to willfully resist the temptation to change his cerebral, sometimes off-putting style.
His primary challenge:
When they [Obama's pollsters] compared the percentage of Democrats who said they strongly approved of Obama with the percentage who said they would vote for him, they found that the latter number was significantly lower than the former. Inside the campaign, aides dubbed this “the Gap.” It was a sobering, hard number that quantified the difference between vague enthusiasm and actual votes. For Hillary Clinton, the gap is much smaller. The majority of voters who strongly approve of her also say they will vote for her.
His general challenge:
Pollsters are beginning to talk about Obama’s “beer problem.” Survey after survey shows that he appeals to the college-educated, “wine sipping” Democrats but isn’t reaching less educated “beer drinkers.” His aides explain away the polls, insisting that voters with more education are just paying closer attention to the campaign, and so therefore these numbers are actually good news—the more voters tune in, the more they will move to Obama.