[T]here were signs along the way that Obama's reserved demeanor might be a liability as well as an advantage. During the interminable series of Democratic debates beginning in April 2007, Obama's professorial tone and discursive drift made him seem weak and windy. Razor-sharp Clinton bested him nearly every time.
At the height of the primary season, when Obama remarked at a fund-raiser in San Francisco that struggling small-towners in Pennsylvania and the Midwest "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them," he came across as elitist and cold, unconcerned with the real lives of real people. A year after his inauguration, many Americans still complain they find him too remote, too removed. They want to see him show a little anger or passion when talking about lost jobs, the limping economy and terrorist threats.
Obama's tendency to rely on a small cluster of advisers has hurt him too. While all candidates assemble a core of loyalists, Obama's extreme dependence during his campaign on "the suits" - the triumvirate of David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and David Plouffe - has carried over into the White House in a stiflingly insular fashion. Although Obama now confers with a broader group to help him gather data as President, some critics believe his prevailing preference for working directly within a tight camp when many big decisions are made has done him a disservice.