Obama’s political problem boils down to the difficulty he has speaking to and for middle America. This problem became evident during the middle of the primary battle with Hillary Clinton. And it could have seriously damaged his candidacy against John McCain. But the onset of the financial crisis that fall, and McCain’s feeble response to it, along with his choice of Sarah Palin as vice president, highlighted Obama’s strongest asset in the eyes of voters–his intelligence–and reduced the importance of his lack of a common touch…

Where Obama invited a voter backlash was by letting the burden of reducing health care costs appear to fall on senior citizens and those middle-class workers who had acquired good health insurance through decades of union battles with management, and not on the insurance and drug companies. Obama ceded too much to the policy wonks who were devising intricate schemes to show they could cut the deficit. He took his eye of off the political imperative of keeping middle America in his corner.

Obama now clearly faces not just a recession and two wars, but a political crisis. He needs to adopt policies that will boost employment, but he may not have the political clout to do so. He needs to restore the public’s faith in his own leadership, but it’s not clear to me how he can accomplish that.