When in recent history has speaking softly and carrying a big stick actually been effective? Isn't it all prefaced on being prepared to use it? Sure, during the birth of the statement some unassuming guy, carrying some head bashing club might seem mysteriously dangerous. It is the quiet ones you have to worry about, right. But now history is common knowledge, so if you've used that stick or carry it just for show, it will be known. The humility strategy is evolving.
Obama's debate performance is a perfect example of speak softly. But without evidence of his willingness to use the proverbial stick, his soft spoken demeanor doesn't command the same respect. The fight many wish to see from Obama but rarely do is sometimes explained away as not wanting to seem like the angry black guy or some sort of professorial authoritarian. People want somebody that'll stand up and fight for our common goals. And the truth is people will say those things, they already do. At this point one could argue that standing up would be more understandable than intimidating to Americans. And less contrived than always taking the high road.
Romney actively controlled the tempo and the tone of the event. He overpowered the moderator who in my opinion seemed outdated and unfamiliar with the type of information the public has and needed answers to. In the face of that reality, Obama can't only speak of philosophical differences and vague references to programs and issues we already know he stands for. Without evidence of standing up in this forum, for himself or things he believes in, Obama comes off as a quiet guy with a big stick who's afraid to use it. That's how Romney treated him. Romney: You don't like my facts, so what. What are you going to do about it? Obama: Hope somebody notices it?