How Obama Got His Groove Back

From speeches to events to interviews, Democrats say they see the inspired 2008 candidate re-emerging.

U.S. President Barack Obama smiles while speaking at a conservation event at the Department of Interior in Washington, March 2, 2012. LARRY DOWNING / Reuters

Barack Obama hasn’t looked this good since he began losing his grip on the nation’s politics in the early summer of 2009.

It’s not just the fact that his enemies are too busy attacking one another to turn their fire on him, or that some economic indicators suggest the recovery is gathering steam. Obama, Democrats say with relief, seems to have regained a bit of the swagger — and the charisma — that seemed to slip away as the exuberance of the campaign was replaced by the complex, draining business of governing

“It’s tone, the pace when he’s talking,” Democratic strategist Karen Finney told BuzzFeed. “He looks more relaxed. He looks like someone who is clear about what he wants to do, and the direction he wants to take the country.”

From his speech to the United Autoworkers Union on Monday in which he delivered a point-by-point rebuttal to his Republican opponents on the
auto-bailout, to a pair of high-profile interviews, Democrats see the return of the candidate they elected over three years ago.

“We find ourselves saying ‘wow, that was great speech’ a lot more often than we used to,” added a Democratic operative. “It’s like we’re back to 2008.”

Obama also seemed last week to have finally cracked the puzzling code of the contemporary media, and to figure out how to cut horizontally through the swarming news cycle with focused, unusual interviews with sympathetic reporters.

In an interview with ESPN’s Bill Simmons this week, the noted sports
fan was “loose in a way I haven’t seen him in office,” said one top Democrat, who added that his interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg on Israel and Iran, “was better than any speech he’s given on the subject.”

“I mean, ‘I don’t bluff,’ it doesn’t get much more powerful than that,” the operative seconded, quoting the money-quote from the Goldberg interview: “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.”

The interviews’ success was no coincidence, said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in an email.

“We use his time for these things in ways that we thing cut through the clutter,” he said, citing the deep, rich interviews’ “viral/online appeal.”

Obama’s allies aren’t sure if he’s doing something new or if he was, as former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told BuzzFeed recently, “born under a lucky star.”

But it’s not quite fair to chalk up Obama’s mood to the fact that he’s been at the job for three years, and like every president is growing more comfortable with his position, or even to effective communications strategy. Poll numbers cover the past few weeks have Obama’s approval rating above-water for the first time since last July, while the bitter Republican primary is weakening his opponents for the fall.

The economy is also improving, along with a host of economic indicators like the unemployment rate and consumer confidence. The bettering mood of the country is rubbing off on its commander in chief.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

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