1. We’re at the first anniversary of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and the slug, the word that captures its essence, is “Disconnect.” This is, still, a surprising word to use about the canny operatives who so perfectly judged the public mood in 2008. But they haven’t connected since. There is a disconnect, a detachment, a distance between the president’s preoccupations and the concerns of the people. There’s a disconnect between his policy proposals and the people’s sense, as expressed in polls, of what the immediate problems are.
2. What went wrong? A year ago, he was king of the world. Now President Obama’s approval rating, according to CBS, has dropped to 46 percent — and his disapproval rating is the highest ever recorded by Gallup at the beginning of an (elected) president’s second year. A year ago, he was leader of a liberal ascendancy that would last 40 years (James Carville). A year ago, conservatism was dead (Sam Tanenhaus). Now the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in bluest of blue Massachusetts is surprisingly close, with a virtually unknown state senator bursting on the scene by turning the election into a mini-referendum on Obama and his agenda, most particularly health care reform. A year ago, Obama was the most charismatic politician on earth. Today the thrill is gone, the doubts growing — even among erstwhile believers.