Two difficult weeks for President Obama have shaken the overwhelming confidence of his campaign in Chicago and of Democratic leaders in Washington, and prompted a depressing realization: This is, at best, 2004, not 1996. At worst it's 1992.What happened to all the hope and change? The rainbows and unicorns?
Democrats had taken comfort for months in the Republican Party's seeming inability to get behind Mitt Romney, Obama's healthy lead in the polls, and equally healthy job growth. And for a few, fleeting, moments, Democrats thought the election might just be easy. But Republican division appears to have been merely an artifact of primary politics, and Mitt Romney has proved a consistent, if unglamorous campaigner.
And this week, amid poor economic indicators and continuing voter frustration, Democrats returned to the harsh reality that this election is going to be anything but a walk in the park.
"There was this sense maybe a month or two ago that Obama was really riding high - that he had gotten his base behind him and the economy was doing better and it had this Clinton vs. Bob Dole 1996 feeling - that he was going to cruise," said one 2008 Obama aide who does not work for this year's campaign. "And now it feels like it's going to be really tough - a 2004 race."
Indeed the campaign is shaping up to be a close-combat battle for one percent of swing voters in a few hundred precincts across three or four states.
Bottom line: The mind-numbed robots that voted for Obama just because they wanted to be part of history have realized that being part of Obama's history sucks.