Virtual Voices

Ready to bowl from Day One?

Campaign 2008

Barack Obama went bowling in an attempt to win the hearts of Pennsylvania's blue-collar voters. According to serious pundits (including Jon Stewart), however, his dismal bowling failure chinks his rock-star armor and casts doubt on everything from his manliness to his personal character.

Obama dropped by the Pleasant Valley Bowl (Altoona, Pennsylvania's "Hottest Night Spot") and tossed a bowling ball for the first time in 30 years. He threw a couple gutter bowls, went for seven frames until he scored a spare, and then called it a day. Final score: a pitiful 37 out of 300 possible points.

The Baltimore Sun consoles him: "From a public relations standpoint, it was a ten-strike." The Sun may have spoken too soon.

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Sports pundits were hardly impressed. According to Media Matters, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough mocked Obama as "dainty," said "Americans want their president, if it's a man, to be a real man," and doubted the tie-wearing, book-reading candidate's effectiveness in winning working class voters. NBC's Harold Ford defended Obama's athleticism and fawned a bit: "It showed a human side to him. … It showed a very humble side to him."

Conservatives were even less impressed. Over in National Review's Corner, Byron York speculated that Obama has alienated "those blue-collar workers who are said to be the key to victory." Michael Goldfarb found much significance in the fact that Obama stopped at the seventh frame: "Quitting and making excuses when things get tough...it doesn't bode well. … It would be nice if Obama showed a little resolve in anything but sticking by his anti-Semitic preacher."

Jon Stewart echoed their concerns on a Daily Show segment mocking media coverage: "How can you keep our jobs from going overseas when you can't even keep the ball out of the gutter?"

On April Fool's Day, Hillary Clinton herself took the opportunity to posture as the tougher, more experienced bowler and (of course) mention that 3 a.m. phone call again:

I'm prepared to play this game all the way to the 10th frame. And when this game is over, the American people will know when that phone rings at 3 a.m., they'll have a president who's ready to bowl on Day One.

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