Even after decimating Democratic state legislators while in office and setting up his own party to lose the White House to Donald Trump, the myth of a unifying Barack Obama has persisted. Sure, he remains an undeniably formidable figurehead and fundraiser. While the Democratic Party struggles to find a new leader, he and the persistently popular Michelle Obama make telegenic godparents for the party. But getting into the mud with politics as dirty as these was never the strong suit of the wily and covert brute force of Obama.
Consider, of the three competitive races that Obama re-emerged from (quasi) private life to try and whip, all three lost.
Andrew Gillum, Sen. Bill Nelson, and Stacey Abrams were all supposed to be in unbelievably tight races. In the end, they all finished behind their Republican opponents (Abrams could still just barely make a runoff, but it doesn’t look good) despite Obama taking the time to rally for them.
On the one hand, this may just reflect poor selection of candidates, though that demonstrates his efficacy as a whip as well. But on the other, Obama fell into the trap of being Obama in the era of Trump.
Obama and Trump differ in their fighting style, but make no mistake: Obama, like Trump, still suffers from fatal hubris. In a campaign speech just two days before the midterm elections, for other candidates, Obama said “I” 73 times, “me” nine times, and “my” seven times.