Ahead in the polls, looking strong in key swing states: This must be exactly what Barack Obama dreamed his reelection campaign would look like, five weeks from Election Day and on the eve of the first debate.
But, as the president and his team well know, Obama in Denver on Wednesday will be defending a first-term record that looks strikingly different than the one he imagined when he took office in January 2009.
Obama’s own words, and those of his closest aides, culled from his first campaign and the early phase of his presidency, tell the story. Cumulatively, the quotations are an anthology of lofty aspirations that fell to earth and boastful predictions that didn’t come true.
All presidents have plans that don’t work out. But many of Obama’s off-the-mark quotes echo because — as a president with a short history in Washington and no previous executive experience — he faced an especially jarring collision between his confident assumptions about how he would govern and the reality of what was possible.
The economy and other problems were more impervious to Obama’s remedies than he expected; Washington, and the rest of the world, were less impressed by the purity of his intentions than he imagined. He is certain to be confronted with many of these contradictions by Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s encounter.