We can debate from now until the day the Sweet Meteor O’ Death strikes the Earth whether or not Barack Obama is a good or effective president. What is beyond debate: He is one hell of a naturally-gifted campaigner.
Obama reminded me of that fact on Tuesday when he jetted to Charlotte, N.C., to campaign alongside presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for the first time in the 2016 campaign.
He did it in a different way than we’re used to seeing him — as cheerleader in chief. But he did it very, very well.
The overwhelming impression Obama gave off on Tuesday in Charlotte was someone totally in his element, a relaxed and confident campaigner at the height of his powers. He fake-cried when Clinton mentioned his daughter, Malia, and the fact that she turned 18 on Monday. He laughed along at Clinton’s retellings of the duo’s experiences on the world stage. (“That did happen,” Obama joked at one point.) Hell, he led a “Hillary” chant!
And then when Obama took the mic, he showed why he won 332 and 365 electoral votes in his 2012 and 2008 campaigns, respectively. He talked about food in North Carolina — and how he was going to get some of it before he got back in Air Force One. He praised the state’s love of basketball — while carefully stepping around the crazed loyalties of Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State supporters. He bashed Donald Trump as a wild Twitterer without any real sense of what it takes to be president. He mentioned how he was going “to go a little off script.”
The performance — and, make no mistake, it was a performance — was of a naturally gifted candidate who knows how gifted he is. (That is the conundrum of Obama: someone with considerable natural abilities who is well aware of his considerable natural abilities.)
It also was clear how much more of a natural Obama is at all of this than is Clinton. (She has acknowledged as much, insisting she isn’t a natural like Obama or her husband.) Her speech — she went before Obama — was solid and steady, largely a rehash of her normal stump address. His was a star turn.
Sure, Clinton might have been somewhat diminished by the comparison on stage today. But, all in all, Obama showed that he still has his good fastball working. And that he will be throwing it on Clinton’s behalf over the next four months. That’s a very good thing for her on an otherwise tough day.