Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) — Last week, President Barack Obama gave a speech whose location, tone and language consciously evoked an address by Theodore Roosevelt at the outset of the 1912 presidential campaign. The deliberate historical echo, however, raised an intriguing question: Will Obama’s 2012 effort bear a closer resemblance to the one waged by Woodrow Wilson, Roosevelt’s opponent, than to the race run by TR himself?
Observers have noted the many similarities between Obama and Wilson. Both were scholarly, brilliant, and accomplished authors before becoming president. Both drew political strength from their gifts as speakers, and relied far less on conventional political attributes, such as an aptitude for backslapping and schmoozing. Both came from the reformist wing of their party, with little support from the insiders.