First, he’s a terrible faker. Obama is simply not good at acting as though he is happy to be somewhere he’s not or pretending that every person he meets is the single most important person he has ever met. Obama wasn’t thrilled (to say the least) about the man he was debating last Wednesday, and it showed. Big time. (In that, Obama is the polar opposite of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Clinton’s greatest political gift was his ability to make wherever he was seem like exactly where he wanted to be.)

Second, Obama is, at heart, a political pragmatist who relies much more on analysis and caution than gut instinct. He stuck with a prose-over-poetry convention speech when it became clear that the fundamentals of the race were moving in his favor. And, even as Romney repeatedly bashed him during the debate, Obama avoided going deeply negative on the Republican with attacks on his “47 percent” comments or his time spent at Bain Capital. (Even Obama’s most daring decision — to run for president after just two years in the Senate — was born of careful calculation, not willy-nilly cavalierness.)

“He’s a cautious man— been like that his whole life,” said one senior Democratic strategist granted anonymity to speak candidly about the party’s top elected official. “It’s him. He doesn’t throw punches.”