Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of talk in the media about Obama "playing on offense" and McCain "playing on defense" in red states (aka - states that George Bush won in 2004), the "ground game" (Obama's campaign organizations in various states) and "Hail Mary" passes (McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his VP running mate).
In short, politics was discussed in football metaphors.
While there is more than a little accuracy to those metaphors, in many ways, politics is more closely analogous to golf than to football.
It's been said that golf is really two games in one, and the two games require players to have two distinctly different skill sets in order to excel at them.
The long game, mostly driving off of tees, requires a lot of power but not necessarily a lot of accuracy, It generates the most "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowds at tournaments and column inches from sportswriters, but doesn't necessarily mean much in the final standings.
The short game, mostly putting on a relatively flat and nearly pristine surface, requires patience, a deft touch, and pinpoint control. A good putting game doesn't generate the same awe that prodigious drives do, but made putts more frequently results in solid paydays.
This phenomenon is summed up by the golf cliche "Drive for show, putt for dough."
In elective politics, the area of campaigning for office is most similar to driving in golf - like spectacular drives, incisive press releases and position papers can generate media buzz, and impassioned speeches can bring out huge crowds, but even the best drives just put the player in position to putt.
And in elective politics, actually governing is most like putting - it calls for a deft touch and pinpoint control, but it doesn't generate the excitement and public interest that campaigning receives. However, in most ways that count for anything, it is far more important to the public;s interests than campaigning.
We know that Senator, now President-elect, Barack Obama, can win over crowds of tens of thousands (and 65 million voters) with his intelligent, well thought out positions and his inspirational speeches.
Over the next four years, we will find out if he plays politics like Robert Garrigus plays golf - spectacular off the tee (2nd in driving distance), atrocious around the green (125th in putting). leading to hard times - only 141st in winning$) or if his performance will be more like Padraig Harrington (32nd in driving, 5th in putting, and 8th in money winnings).
Over the next four years, we will find out if Barack Obama can putt as well as he can drive.
NB - I wanted to cite Tiger Woods in this analogy as someone who performs outstandingly well in both aspects of his profession, but his injury-shortened season put a stop to that notion. Paddy Harrington serves quite well though.
NB2 - The selection of Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff is a solid15-foot putt for birdie - he knows the Hill and can wrangle votes/kick asses in Congress, and anything that moves him farther away from the Democratic Party's grassroots is a good thing. We dislike him almost as much as we like Governor Howard Dean.