Obama's outsized personality was a huge factor in 2008. He seemed bigger than life, with a story that can happen only in America. He started life with many disadvantages. His father abandoned him -- and later his mother did as well, sending him to live with her parents while she pursued a new life in another country with a new husband and child. He moved around from place to place, never quite belonging wherever he was. And he was black, which, until Obama's election, most analysts would have regarded as a major impediment to being elected president.
As it turned out, Obama's race was probably a factor in favor of his election. Voting for Obama made many Americans -- white and black -- feel good about themselves. It allowed them to exorcize the demons of the country's past racism. But in 2012, race will be, as it should, a non-factor.
Obama's biggest challenge in 2012 will be running against the Barack Obama of 2008. Will Americans be sick of his grandiose rhetoric? Will they believe they're better off now than they were four years ago? Will they believe he delivered on that "hope and change" message? Or will they feel cheated?
The best thing the Republican nominee may have going for him is that he is not Obama. The GOP nominee may be a bit battered, but he'll also be battle-tested. And by Nov. 6, voters may just have had enough of Obama to try their luck again by picking the other guy -- no matter who he is.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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