Obama in Truman mode. Yeah, the president’s general popularity has plummeted since the inauguration, but he’s still the party’s best hope for juicing the liberal base. If the base stays home on Election Day (apparently demoralized by all that Obama has thus far failed to achieve), the voting will be dominated by angry conservatives (who think that Obama has been too liberal, or “socialist,” or whatever). That’s what happened in 1994: Newt’s army showed up; Clinton’s base did not.

Twice in the last week, Obama was feisty on the stump: “Do we return to the same failed policies that ran our economy into a ditch, or do we keep moving forward with policies that are slowly pulling us out? . . . It’s still fear vs. hope, the past vs. the future. It’s still a choice between sliding backward and moving forward. That’s what this election is about.”

It’s easy to poke holes in that kind of rhetoric (note the caveat about how his policies are “slowly” pulling us out of recession), but it’s solely aimed at persuading grassroots Democrats to shake off their torpor. They just might, if Obama can shelve his cerebral vibe and sustain a give-’em-hell spirit for the next 51 days. (Big if.)