Jonah Goldberg

Even Obama's guru, David Axelrod, agrees Obama was overexposed, comparing it to how the Chicago Bears relied on legendary running back Walter Payton for everything. It "was Payton left and Payton right and Payton up the middle," he told New York magazine. "It became kind of a dreary game plan. (In Obama) we have one of the great political performers of our time. But I think we degraded that to some degree by using him as much as we did in the ways we did."

The problem with the analogy: Payton was overused because he delivered. There's not a lot of evidence that Obama can be counted on to advance, never mind score, whenever you give him the ball. Nearly all of his victories have stemmed not from presidential persuasion of the opposition or the public but from relying on the congressional Democrats' majority. He gave 52 speeches on health-care reform in 2009. It never got more popular. It passed because he shopped out health care to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who relied on legislative skullduggery more than presidential leadership.

The fact that Obama's decision to intervene in Libya has produced no rallying around the president might also indicate that he should keep his head down. Or it might show that his bizarre approach to the conflict is as confusing to average voters as it is to everyone else.

Obviously, Obama fervently hopes the economy will at least "feel" a lot better by 2012. But that's a big if, given high unemployment and underemployment as well as the decline in real income and home values. Even if we get the jobs, Obama will have a hard time answering the "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" question.

I understand why Obama is lying low. What's less understandable is why so many Republicans are scared of him.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.