Barack Obama will be reelected in 2012. Probably.
The presidents approval ratings continue to hover at or above 50% and the
gaggle of Republicans now posturing for a chance to oppose him does not
appear to include even one substantial opponent.
Of course, no current polling gives us the slightest hint as to how anyone
might vote come November, 2012. Some Republican, or small group of
Republicans, will eventually emerge from the pack with the ability to
launch a serious campaign. It might even be someone weve not yet
considered. Two years before the 2008 elections not many had heard of the
first-term Senator from Illinois with the funny name.
There are plenty of reasons for some to suspect a one-term presidency for
Were still at war on two fronts with no end in sight. Weve no clue as
to the outcome of the current unrest in north Africa. The budget deficits
are close to paralyzing and cannot be sustained. The healthcare reform
bill is still unpopular with many. Unemployment continues at unacceptable
levels. The bailouts of the auto companies, banks and Wall Street
investment houses are viewed with both distrust and disgust. The stimulus
spending has had little noticeable impact and the states have received
their last share of it. Gasoline prices have exploded and might derail
whatever economic recovery exists.
Its a depressing mess. Sometimes it feels like the world has spun out of
The president has set a withdrawal date for Afghanistan. But the argument
can be made that revolutionary unrest in the region provides the first
legitimate strategic reason for being there at all. The temptation to
stay so our presence can stabilize the volatility and outcomes will be
overwhelming. This will soon change from being Bushs war to being
Were not sure if the current unrest in north Africa and the Middle East
is a good or bad thing. In Libya, the departure of He Whose Name Cannot
Be Spelled would be good news but weve no idea who might replace him.
Our track record in that part of the world is so abysmal Obama might be
doing the right thing by staying out of it.
The deficits have become almost surreal. Borrowing 40 cents of every
dollar we spend will eventually crush the economy. Though there are some
economists who believe the spending was justified the public intuitively
understands this is nuts. And we havent even begun to seriously discuss
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid which account for more than 40% of
the federal budget.
Healthcare reform is slowly wending its way through the courts. More than
a dozen lawsuits were initially filed and of the three that werent
dismissed outright, two Federal District Court judges upheld the law and
one tossed it out in its entirety. Republicans in Congress continue to
try to undo it or defund it and public opinion is split about 55-45
against it. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will make the decision.
The bailouts likely saved millions of jobs as well as the American auto
industry which is once again profitable and doing some limited hiring.
Allowing the greed of a handful of traders to destroy Wall Street,
attractive as that option must have been, would have led to a calamitous
cascade of additional job losses. Still, hardly anyone seems pleased.
President Obama, like every president, has been buffeted by old problems
he inherited and new crises he could not have anticipated. The trick is
to maintain some overriding direction while managing the day-to-day
Its fair to wonder aloud if, in the midst of the various storms, Obama
has lost the vision thing.
Voter uncertainty can be deadly for an elected official and its no longer
clear we know exactly where the president wants to take us. Are there
goals? How do we reach them?
If we believe there is an objective worth reaching well put up with
almost anything on our way there. But we have to have a pretty good idea
of where were going.
Thats part of the reason the Recession that Never Ends never ends. There
is plenty of money out there in corporate America; more than $1 trillion
in reserve by some accounts. Unfortunately, our monetary policy has been
mostly about putting out various financial wildfires. Is there going to be
tax reform or not? Is Congress going to work together or not? Is our
petroleum-based economy going to depend on the vagaries of unfolding
events in the Middle East or not? President Obama has been little help in
offering reassurance or specific leadership.
Having said all of that, Obama still enjoys popular support and decent job
approval ratings. Many people, if not most, still believe things will turn
around. We want him to succeed. He is a dynamic campaigner and the best
fundraiser in the history of American presidential campaigns.
Even better for Obama, no Republican has yet emerged with any overarching
theme beyond less government, lower taxes. Thats a narrow policy
position, not a vision for the direction of the country. It will not help
GOP presidential candidates that their fractured electorate will be more
demanding than ever. Candidates will have to partake of the now
traditional dance careen wildly to the right during the primary season
to appeal to those most likely to vote in Republican primary elections and
then ricochet wildly back to the middle to appeal to the more
middle-of-the-road independent voters who actually decide presidential
Despite our problems, President Obama still has an advantage. It will
become a significant advantage when he remembers well put up with the
potholes along the way if hell just remind us where were going.
Its enough to make you sick.