- Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 00:00
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The 2010 elections were devastating for the Democrats. Overnight, their majority in the House of Representatives disappeared and their edge in the Senate was whittled down to just three seats. When the Congress convened in January 2011 Washington D.C. had more new Republicans in town than at any other time since 1946. The GOP was joyous, and looking two years ahead, they began to see winning the
White House as a definite possibility.
They have reason for optimism. The President is vulnerable. However, President Obama, for his part, isn’t too worried about his vulnerabilities and is thoroughly convinced he can win. His fund-raisers have been hard at work for months (if they ever really stopped raising money) and his campaign organization is already reforming for a second run at the White House. While he may not command the same kind of grass roots enthusiasm he did in 2008 the web-based tools and seasoned organizers that made his campaign one of the best managed Presidential campaigns in history have been honed and refined, ready to be put to use, one more time, in 2012.
However, this isn’t 2008 and there is no doubt that the country isn’t where the President had hoped it would be by now. According to last week’s Rasmussen poll the President has a 47% approval rating. That’s not good, but this statistic needs to be taken in context. Obama’s approval rating is actually better than it was for several Presidents at this same point in their terms who later went on to win reelection. This includes Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George Bush. Also, a majority of Americans still like the President personally. He seems to do especially well in the “nice guy” ratings.
The President, in 2008, had a substantial majority and won states that Democrats hadn’t won in years. But doing the same thing in 2012 isn’t going to be easy. Several of the states that formed the bulwark of his electoral win aren’t likely to be there a second time. Virginia and North Carolina carried for the President in 2008 but it’s unlikely they’ll be there in 2012. Other states the Democrats need to win if Obama is to get a second term include Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, New Mexico, and Ohio. The Democrats can’t afford to lose any of these. But right now, several are hanging in the balance.
What it’s going to take for the President to reclaim the high ground in the run up for the election is a rebound in the economy, some faith that there is an end in sight to the wars in the Middle East, and a feeling that we’re going to turn the deficit around.
That’s an awfully tall order.
However, in the eyes of the vast majority of voters, the economy is the most important of these concerns and often determines the outcome of the election. The current slow recovery, by early next year, may have enough steam to give the President’s campaign the traction it will need.
But, there is one more factor in the equation and that’s the Republicans themselves. For all the Obama bashing rhetoric they still don’t seem to have any viable national candidates who, to quote Lyndon Johnson, “have the fire in their bellies to win.” At this point in campaign 2008 there were six candidates, Democrats and Republicans, actively seeking their respective party’s nomination. This year, on the heels of 2010’s Republican sweep, the GOP field is relatively quiet. And of those who are at least nearing the point of putting their toes in the water many still seem to be saying, “…should I or shouldn’t I?”
It would be ironic if the GOP, so fired up after last year’s gain, in 2012, somehow managed to lose their momentum, run a lackluster candidate, and leave the field open to Barack Obama. But watching what is already an incredibly dull race for Republican nomination, and the steady but sure Democratic buildup, its an outcome that is becoming more and more likely.