Don’t count Obama out just yet


At this time next year, American voters will be choosing a president. Current polls suggest a tight election, with President Obama trailing in some crucial swing states. But a year in politics is an eternity.

The Obama people are banking on the appeal of stability. “Don’t compare me with the Almighty,” Obama said in a recent speech, “compare me to the alternative.” The current crop of Republican presidential candidates has indeed been getting mixed reviews ahead of the primaries. Mitt Romney and Herman Cain may be leading the polls, but neither is showing much traction with independent voters. Many of the leading contenders have shown they are vulnerable—Romney fails to generate enthusiasm, Rick Perry has lost his early momentum, and Cain is mired in scandal.

If Obama is vulnerable, it is because the economy will likely be the deciding factor in the election, no matter who the GOP puts up against the president. The case for re-election will in all likelihood be centred around the problems he inherited, how he handled them, and the differences between his approach and that of the Republicans when it comes to job creation and economic performance. While foreign policy is an important file for Obama, and the successes of the Obama-Clinton tandem are widely acknowledged, it is safe to predict the president’s narrative will be essentially economic in nature.

On that front, there is a real risk Obama will be running for re-election with the U.S. suffering through the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. While growth in employment has occurred under the Obama administration and a serious depression was averted according to most economists, the rate of jobs growth has been slow, exposing him to criticism come election time.

Still, only two elected presidents have not been re-elected since 1945: Carter and Bush 41. Undoubtedly, the bully pulpit counts for something, and Obama is using it with more impact of late. As for Obama’s personal popularity, he has had consistently good poll numbers since entering the national scene. People generally like him as a person and want him to do well. This suggests Obama should not be underestimated in a one-on-one contest next autumn. (Incidentally, the same can’t be said for members of Congress, which has a 13 per cent approval rating, the lowest number ever recorded.)

Just recently, after surveying the GOP field, influential conservative pundit Bill Kristol sounded a note of pessimism about the Republicans’ chances of beating Obama. Indeed, the talk about Obama’s demise at this time next year may well be premature.


Don’t count Obama out just yet

  1. Heh. Clever writing in that speech there — giving a double meaning to “the alternative” in such close context with “the Almighty”.  I wonder how many people will consciously notice?

    Say what you like about Obama’s policies, but the man’s got a great way with words. I saw his speech after the democratic defeat for Bush II’s second term, and even then I was going, “Man.. this guy can speak! Why didn’t they run him?” Just a little premature, I guess.

  2. I agree with most of what you have written but it must be remembered that Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush both lost during economic downturns.

  3. This is the thing that people seem to always forget when talking about the President’s low popularity – the fact that he’s still more popular than pretty much the entire House and Senate, and arguably most, if not all, of the current Republican Presidential candidates.

    As Parisella says, a year is a lifetime, but still, think about the fact that the only two elected Presidents to not get re-elected since WWII were beaten by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.  Do any of the Republican Presidential candidates strike  anyone as a likely next Reagan, or next Clinton???  I have my doubts that some of them could have beaten Jimmy Carter, lol.

    I think Romney’s the most likely nominee by FAR (I hear that his ground game is miles ahead of his competitors, and while the nationwide numbers still have him barely in first, or tied with other candidates, or in second, that he’s leading, sometimes significantly, in some important primary states, and may well build up an aura of inevitability surprisingly quickly once votes actually start getting counted) and while to my mind he’s the only one of the current field I can see beating Obama, I’m not really confident that he could do it either.  I think many people are severely underestimating the power of incumbency, and over-estimating the ability of a Republican candidate to out-campaign Barack Obama.

    • Sadly I have to agree with you. Obama has been a disastrous president. He does not deserve re-election. But I don’t see any of the current Republican field beating him unless one of them changes their name to “Generic Republican”…cause that’s the only Republican that currently leads Obama in the polls.

      • I don’t want to speak on behalf of LKO, but I didn’t read anything in his post that suggested he thought Obama has been a disastrous president. Obama has been a disappointment but I don’t place all the US’s problems at his feet. I am genuinely curious…why do you think he has been disastrous?

        • I meant that I agreed with the part that there doesn’t seem to be a Republican in the field that can beat him. Knowing LKO is a bit (a lot?) further left than I am, I suspect my assessment of Obama’s presidency is probably a bit more dire than his.

          As to why I think he’s a disaster…in a nutshell, the US economy has been a disaster under his leadership. The rate of new debt growth has spiraled dramatically under his watch, and the lack of leadership from him in particular during the debt crisis, where he basically just called news conference after news conference where he resorted to partisan bickering and name calling, was appalling. ObamaCare is a disaster and is getting overturned under constitutional challenge in God knows how many states now. This latest diplomatic flub with Sarkozy about Netanyahoo could unnecessarily cause major rifts with Israel at a time that Iran is close to achieving a nuclear weapon. His handling of race issues has set race relations back instead of moving them forward (thinking in particular of the “Beer Summit” he was forced to call after he stupidly involved himself in that Harvard case, and his association with the new Black Panthers). Lots of corruption charges now coming to light with Fast & Furious and Solyndra loans.

          • Ok..agreed then about the republican field..weak at best. I think Romney (Democrat in wolf’s clothing) could give Obama a run for his money but who knows.

            As for your examples of Obama’s disastrous presidency…I am not so sure. Let’s not forget that he came to power during the crisis of the 2008 meltdown (a problem he inherited and did not create) and economists generally agree that his stimulus package most likely staved off a greater depression. Since then, I would agree, he has to wear the failure of the unemployment level (although creeping down) and sluggish growth. The debt crisis…they were all bad in that one…one could easily argue that the Republican leadership displayed just as much partisanship, if not more, and looking at the polls and Congress’ low levels of popularity, many may have felt it was the Republican who were holding the country hostage for political points..the whole debt ceiling issue was never brought up under previous administrations. The Sarkozy, Obama , Netanyahoo issue is a non-starter…no secret that the US and Europe dislike the Israeli leader but this will have absolutely no impact upon their relationship, cooperation and public support for each other. Race issues…seriously? Seems like stretching? At best he’s viewed as a role model among young African-Americans…at worst..status quo. I have seen no stats or reports in worsening race relations. The beer summit was amateurish but it did no harm. As for corruption…what else is new…obama, mccain..doesn’t matter…gov’t waste is par for the course, unfortunately. Finally, Obamacare…seems to depend on who you ask…for millions, its allows them respite from personal bankruptcy in the event of health issues. Yes, you are right, some courts have ruled against it, while others have not…will have to wait until the cases run their course through the judicial circuit. We’ll have to agree to disagree but I don’t think Obama has been ‘disastrous’…mediocre…maybe.

  4. As an American independent – i’ll say that it’s impossible to accurately gauge Obama’s performance. Working class America saw nearly half its net worth wiped out in the real estate debacle, unemployment in the USA has been rising since the day GW Bush became president and the deficit along with it (and the trade imbalance – what went down was the value of the dollar). The Obama term has been a continuation of what started with Bush and continued. The huge disappointment with Obama is the lack of recognizable change he promised as a candidate. He cannot backpedal out of that. 
    As disgusted as many of us get with the current situation in the USA, the bottom line for working class America is that we’re tired of the blame game and ready for someone to fix it all. It’s obvious to me that the ultra-wealthy are extremely happy with things the way they are and they’re spending gazillions on protecting the status quo. I’m not sure Obama has what it takes to break their monopoly on power and wealth. What I am sure about is that no Republican has even the slightest intention of doing so. They work hard at defending the status quo. In fact they plan to keep pushing the country in that direction – actually, shove – very hard – in the direction we’ve been going for a decade now.
    I remember the Clinton years. America saw its greatest days by following Keynesian economics and building wealth from both the bottom and the top. It worked well. Very well. Why every American who works for a living is not hungry to return to those days truly baffles me.
    Capitalism becomes broken when the wealthy use their power to get richer by absorbing all the newly created wealth for themselves. Capitalism becomes oppressive when the wealthy use their power to get richer by absorbing wealth from the working poor because the broken economy no longer produces new wealth. That’s where we are today. We do not need another Ronald Reagan. We need another F.D. Roosevelt. God help us if we cannot fond one soon!

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