Game time for Obama

Game time for Obama

Who could have thought that it would come to this? The man that fascinated millions four years ago with just a phrase, “Yes, we can,” is fighting to take back the poll numbers in the most heated election in a decade. He will most likely win again, but this time he has to change his game.

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney faced off in the third debate that most Republicans knew would be a sure shot for the incumbent. Yet his previous performances almost made Democrats nervous about where the elections were going.

The Chicago honchos like Robert Gibbs, David(s) Axelrod and Plouffe got involved in the campaign late in the spring. For Obama standards, this is way off. When I remember the primary battles he fought against Hillary Clinton in 2008, he had established his lean, mean campaign machine by December 2007. So now, he has to catch up by pulling all-nighter campaign tours to Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and finally the big prize Ohio.

The game is still in his control in terms of the Electoral College. But Obama cannot afford to lose one or two of the critical swing states that brought him the victory in 2008. So Virginia, Florida and Colorado have to turn to blue. They are sort of orange right now.

Glenn Thrush of wrote this about the president in his e-book “Obama’s Last Stand”:
“The image of Obama as a high-minded thinker tells only half the story, however. Anybody who has watched him play pickup basketball knows another Obama. His jump shot maybe shaky, but he plays hard, relentlessly – to win.”

Come November 7, we will most likely wake up to a world similar to today. But Obama will have to change his game dramatically if he wants to leave a credible legacy.

It seems there will be dramatic changes in the National Security Council team of Mr. Obama after the elections. If as she had promised Mrs. Clinton steps aside as the secretary of state, Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador looks like the top contender. If Clinton stays (which is the likelier scenario at this point) Samantha Power may get back to the West Wing into the national security staff. Obama may also totally switch gears and bring in an old insider like Anthony Lake from Vice President Joe Biden’s/ former President Bill Clinton’s team, which might be an excellent choice for Turkey.

Surprisingly, the always-coherent team Obama has been divided for the past year. In a recent article she wrote in Foreign Policy, an early appointee to the Obama Administration, Rosa Brooks, almost blew the whistle on the power struggle between two top NSC advisers, Tom Donilon and Denis McDonough. Brooks also wrote how a very talented Pentagon insider Michelle Flournoy had to leave her post in the Obama administration.

So it wasn’t just us complaining about the lack of focus or long-term foreign policy perspective. Obama needs to get back into his game again too. In an era that will be even more full of uncertainties, local crises and possible military actions, Obama cannot afford to stay on the sideline.

I, for my part, expect to see some new “shoulders with stars” on the new Obama team.