The "likable" Barack Obama

The focus on likability is a mistake. It’s a mistake, first, for Democrats if they believe likability will be enough for Mr. Obama to win re-election come November. It’s even more of a mistake for those Republicans who believe that the only way to defeat the president is to get fellow Americans to dislike him as much as they do.

At its core, the confusion over likability has to do with an inability to see the world as the other side sees it. Hilary Rosen gave us a perfect example of this phenomenon recently when she suggested that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.” The folks at the White House immediately threw Ms. Rosen under the bus: They feared the administration would be tarred with the same unwitting arrogance Ms. Rosen exhibited when she failed to see how her remarks might be viewed by millions of American women who have made the same choice as Mrs. Romney.

Republicans ought not make this mistake with Mr. Obama. When Americans look at the president, many see a loving father with personal values they admire and an attractive wife and children. The administration understands this, which is why a recent Internet campaign ad asking voters to “help the Obamas stand up for working Americans” did so over a photo of the president, his wife and his two daughters…

Now, the president’s likability doesn’t mean Mr. Romney shouldn’t go on the offensive. It does mean he ought to attack hardest where Mr. Obama is at his weakest: his failed policies.