Obama's disconnect between campaigning and governing

With President Obama's poll numbers falling, many political analysts are wondering where he went wrong. One of the most often heard remarks is some variation of, "He ran a great a campaign, why can't he seem to govern better?".

Obama himself also used this many times in the campaign whenever the issue of his experience came up. Since Obama had no executive experience, he frequently pointed to how well the campaign was being run as evidence that he could be an executive for a large organization. Looking at it from the outside, the Presidential campaign appears impressive. There are large crowds at huge arenas, frequent travel and a large public relations organization. All these factors must be well managed and give the appearance of a well run machine.

The reason he is not governing better is that the analogy and observation were always based on a faulty premise. Obama didn't "run" his campaign any more than a top music act "runs" their tour. Both obviously have input as to where they go and the content of their appearances, but they don't actually run the shows or handle the logistics of the operation. This is left to the campaign manager or the tour manager and this is where real executive and managerial experience is needed and developed.

Even if we grant the premise that a presidential candidate is a campaign manager, this is still not anywhere near the type of experience needed to run large bureaucracies on a day to day basis. The US government is an enormous behemoth of an organization. It is the equivalent of running the top 10 largest companies in the world at the same time. This is not meant to belittle the managerial talent needed to run tours or campaigns; but would you hire the manager of the latest rock tour to run a Fortune 100 company?

It may be true that no person can gain the experience needed to run the executive branch of the US government prior to becoming President. Governors probably come closest to the right kind of experience needed. In modern times, Eisenhower's leadership as head of the ETO in WWII showed that he could successfully lead large organizations. We should expect that even people of great accomplishment may have to learn on the job as President. As voters, we should choose leaders who don't have a too steep of a learning curve.