Should the debt-limit absurdity "escalate into a full-blown crisis," the NY Times' Matt Bai chooses Obama as the political winner. I couldn't agree more:
Presidents always seem bigger and more commanding than members of Congress. Even a beaten-down president tends to be more compelling than some guy who needs to wear a lapel pin just to make sure he can ride the right elevator.... Working in Mr. Obama’s favor, too, is that he seems now to understand this power dynamic and how to use it.
Bai enumerates several reasons for Obama's political advantage -- all convincing -- but it's this last that convinced me, displayed again just yesterday, more than any others.
At his press conference, Obama presented a greater self-assurance than I had witnessed before. It helps of course that in this fight he is swinging from the superior negotiating position -- the deficit hysterics among the routinely hysterical GOP dropped clean cold with the vapors when Obama out-hystericized them with a $4 trillion figure, impossible to achieve without revenue increases -- but on Monday he radiated a confidence in himself that only grows with the job. He owned that briefing room.
Also helpful is that Obama is nudging back into campaign mode; he's a natural politician who does his best work, in terms of public relations, when he possesses pragmatic reason to appear more political -- i.e., less compromising. The activist left agitated throughout President Obama's first two years for such "perpetual campaign" behavior, even though an emphasis on intransigence would have forever stalled the actual progress achieved, which, given Obama's essentially conservative Congress, was monumental.
Additionally, and unlike the lapel-pin boys, in the debt-ceiling affair President Obama can order up a pulpit, with national coverage, from which he can preach and bellow to millions. Or, if you prefer the pugalisitc metaphor, he's got the second-rate has-beens on the ropes and he's pummeling them at will ... and their blood is a beautiful sight.