O’Rourke’s deficiencies aren’t just a thin résumé and lack of policy specifics. Leadership can be demonstrated in ways other than by extensive governmental experience, and campaigns are generally won on broad themes rather than white papers. But O’Rourke has not articulated any such themes beyond generic uplift, and he has not demonstrated leadership in any other sphere.
Of course, Obama could be criticized in very similar terms — for being an inexperienced candidate of personality and uplift, a vessel into which voters with very different preferences could pour their hopes. O’Rourke has been compared to Obama, and attracted the attention of a number of Obama operatives and supporters, for just those reasons.
But Obama distinguished himself in one crucial way: by opposing the Iraq War from the beginning. He was able to use that fact to argue not only that he would be less-hawkish but that he would have better — and more independent — judgment not only than Hillary Clinton but than John Edwards, the good-looking Southern white male candidate of that cycle.