The problem with Obama

Paul Krugman is the probably smartest person writing columns for a newspaper. He saw through Bush at a time when most of us thought we'd like to have a beer with him. He's been totally anti-Obama this election cycle and in his latest column, he provides a lucid explanation of his reluctance to back Obama:
... maybe his transformational campaign isn’t winning over working-class voters because transformation isn’t what they’re looking for. From the beginning, I wondered what Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, his talk of a new politics and declarations that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” (waiting for to do what, exactly?) would mean to families troubled by lagging wages, insecure jobs and fear of losing health coverage. The answer, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, seems pretty clear: not much. Mrs. Clinton has been able to stay in the race, against heavy odds, largely because her no-nonsense style, her obvious interest in the wonkish details of policy, resonate with many voters in a way that Mr. Obama’s eloquence does not.

But there is a problem with this diagnosis: It's not that Obama is not winning working-class voters. He's not winning older voters and he's not winning women. I think older voters are simply voting for the "brand-name" candidate -- Obama's simply less known to these voters. And women are voting for the woman in the race -- what's surprising is that Obama's doing so well when half the electorate can so easily identify with his opponent and when his opponent has instant name recognition. So, unlike Krugman, I'm not worried about electability.

Another point that Krugman makes, however, is deeply discomfitting because it is so true:

Tellingly, the Obama campaign has put far more energy into attacking Mrs. Clinton’s health care proposals than it has into promoting the idea of universal coverage.

Krugman saw that "compassionate conservatism" was a hoax because Bush's economics simply didn't make any sense. Has he similarly spotted the problem with the case of Obama? After all, the main rationale for an Obama presidency is the transformatial nature of his candidacy. Because he is an excellent communicator, he should be able to bring the American people along with him. But what use is being an excellent communicator and a transformational character if you don't bother to sell the big picture?

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