It’s not a distinctive photo, by any means, but it’s noteworthy, and attracting attention, for a couple reasons.
First, is the timing. If anything characterizes Obama (just like John MacEnroe in the old days), it’s that he tends to play best from behind (1, 2). It’s probably been a week or two now that pundits have been questioning the conventional wisdom that the GOP and the Tea Party will romp in the mid-terms. It’s only the past week, however, that Obama has started the big PR push — and this cover helps crystallize a sober “oh, perhaps we shouldn’t have written off Obama so quickly” dejavu.
If you recall, Obama thrashed McCain primarily because, coming out of the Bush madness, O seemed to John and Jane Q. Public — forget what the spinmeisters were saying — like the far more steady, thoughtful and, frankly, sane alternative. With the Tea Party’s standard bearers looking more and more radical and wild-eyed (and determined to make the election a referendum on Obama himself), this photo of the President, calm and grounded outside the Oval Office, is all the more impactful for the lack of drama or pizzaz.
* Of the three previous Obama Rolling Stone covers (not including the Shepard Fairey retake on his campaign poster), Obama is only wearing a blue tie in one, which was July 10th, ’08, a month before the Democratic convention. Here’s October 08 and the March 08 endorsement illustration.