James Joyner has this to say about George W. Bush:
The reason Bush can pull off the image of "he is a plain-spoken conservative who knows his mind and is resolute in crisis" is because that's who he is. He's not very comfortable with a teleprompter in front of him and isn't particularly good at news conferences. He is, however, quite comfortable just speaking his mind in front of ordinary folks. John Kerry (and Al Gore before him) aren't as good at it because they're plainly trying to put on an act.
To say that George W. Bush is a man of the people is an insult to people. The slick politician with the common touch is an American icon. Political folksiness was a trope in Huey Long's day. T' hear some folks talk, you'd think GW was the first politico ever to judge hogs at the state fair. Grow up, America. Rent All the King's Men, or Blaze, or any American movie featuring a politician on the campaign trail.
By all accounts, George W. Bush has great social skills. He is very comfortable making small talk with a broad cross section of friendly and deferential folks, including journalists, blue collar workers, and school children. Bush remembers people's names and asks after their kids. He smiles. He has a firm handshake. He's a good politician. But as Kevin Drum points out, Bush is also extremely uncomfortable around anyone who might question or challenge him. You wouldn't think that such a genuine and plainspoken individual would demand to be insulated by people who agree with him at all times. An emperor might demand such a thing, but not a populist President. An ordinary guy would feel weird about those loyalty pledges and besides, he'd want to communicate with ordinary Americans, not just a pre-vetted subset of flunkies.
Everyone ought to realize that plainspoken conservatism is George W. Bush's brand. It's not his life. It's not his character. It's not even his normal public behavior. Would a plain-spoken conservative have shifted his justification for war three times? What about Bush's military service? Let's hear him say something plainspoken and conservative about being AWOL. For those who think Bush is resolute in a crisis, I have three words: The Pet Goat.