It’s no surprise, of course, that Barack Obama was named Time‘s Person of the Year. In presidential election years, the winner of the election has been named POY in 12 out of 22 times, including 9 of the last 13 and 4 of the last 4. (That’s original research; I counted them up myself. You’re welcome.)
But I was surprised when I read the magazine’s POY essay. I was expecting a glowing hagiography, reminiscent of when the just-elected Obama was sanctified by the Nobel Peace Prize committee. Instead I found a clear-eyed assessment of the re-election effort and why it was successful.
The passage I found most persuasive is set up by a statement from the head of the campaign’s research team that “undecided voters… were making a very trust-based assessment between Obama and Romney.”
This became the through line of the brutal and at times unfair Obama attacks on Romney — the cracks about car elevators, the specious mention of his potentially felonious Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the false claim that he supported an abortion ban without a rape exception, the endless harping on a Swiss bank account once held in his wife’s name. It all spoke to a central message built around trust: One man, despite his failures, had voters like you in mind. The other man, by contrast, knew how to make a lot of money for people you will never meet.
Of course, Romney turned out to be Obama’s biggest ally in that narrative.
One final thought: Is anyone else puzzled by Time‘s decision to dramatically darken the Obama “Person of the Year” cover photo? Didn’t they learn their lesson in 1994?