But in failing to dance with the ones that “brung him,” Obama is playing a dangerous game. Turning out the base, winning back small contributors, and engaging volunteers will be infinitely more difficult for a president who has disappointed so many of his most devoted supporters in 2008. Sure, they are going to vote for him. But in a post-Citizens United world, as Wisconsin demonstrates better than anywhere, Republicans will enjoy a massive spending advantage in both advertising and organizing efforts this year. A victory for Walker will not only give them the feeling of wind at their back, it will help cement a media narrative that puts such efforts at the center of the story of why Mitt Romney is, in this economic and political environment, a good bet for November. Had Obama thrown himself into the race on the side of the team that fought so hard for him, supporters, opponents and reporters would all understand that this is a candidate who intends to do all he can in this fight and to risk whatever it takes.

Instead he chose to make the cautious, tempered decision to remain above the fray and hope things drop his way. Looking back on the past four years, it does not appear a terribly promising strategy.