There's something missing from President Obama's re-election campaign. Namely that Mr. Cool swagger and inviting smile that prompted the YouTube sensation "Obama Girl" to sing sexy lyrics to the prez and other women to profess their love for him.
"He did have it," says London School of Economics scholar Catherine Hakim. "That must have been a factor in him being the first black man to be elected president of the United States. The way he came over was entirely positive, smooth, charismatic, charming, as well as professional, knowledgeable, and intelligent," adds Hakim, author of the controversial new book Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.
But two hard years on the job "sort of killed something in him," she tells Whispers. "I think he looks stressed," she adds. "All the pictures make him look much older."
Well, he needs his sexy back, she says, so that he can capitalize on his personal "erotic capital" to woo voters. Maybe take a page out of Bill Clinton's playbook, she adds of the troubled president who never lost his touch. Try a smarter and dressier wardrobe. Maybe smile more. [Read: Obama Seeks More $5 Dinners With Fans.]
The title of her book is racy, and it's come under fire by female journalists and columnists in Europe. But Hakim says they don't get the point: She's not suggesting that women, or men, turn up the sex. "I rather like the French approach to a lot of these things. The French concept of seduction is that anyone might be seductive, and it has nothing to do with sexuality or getting into bed with anyone. It's about someone having allure, or charisma, being someone you want to know or get closer or get to know better. It's about persuading with your ideas or policies or what you want to sell." [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
One candidate Obama might look to for tips, she says, is GOP presidential front-runner Rick Perry. "I think Perry seems to have it." In fact, maybe he should look at the whole GOP. Citing a study, Hakim says, "The people in right-wing parties tend to have better appearance. That may be partly because they have just a bit more money than left-wingers, but it does seem to be also that they think that appearance and style matters more than the left wing does, who think it's all about ideas and therefore appearances are irrelevant."
One Republican Obama should ignore? "Sarah Palin had it, but it seems to me that, well, in Europe anyway, she is viewed as too lightweight intellectually to be a really credible" presidential candidate.
Illustration by Ed Wexler