Political Opinions that Make Sense

Why Obama Can Still Win in 2012

| Thursday, August 25, 2011

Next fall, Americans will be going to the polls again to judge whether to extend President Obama’s term for another 4 years or not. By looking at the economic numbers now, Obama’s re-election prospects look dim. The economy is growing at a very poor rate, the credit rating of the US was downgraded by S&P and many economists warn about the threat of another double-dip recession while the unemployment rate is pegged at a high 9.1 percent. 

Add to that the growing unrest among Democratic circles who want to see someone who will challenge the President in the primaries. Plus, many pundits also have already likened Obama to Jimmy Carter, the most unsuccessful president in the post-World War II period. 

Given that the economy does not improve during elections next year, we still cannot rule out the possibility of another 4-year term for Obama.

Just take a look top three reasons why:

1. People still like him. 
Though his recent approval rating from Gallup is only 40% (his lowest so far), Obama can still take consolation in the fact that majority of Americans still like him as a person. According to polltracker from talkingpointsmemo.com, 50.2% of Americans still like him while 44.7% view him unfavorably.  This implies that still Americans are rooting for Obama to succeed.  

Likability is a big factor that can play into the President’s advantage despite his dismal approval ratings especially if the Republicans choose to nominate someone who is viewed too extreme or too bland to engage Obama in the campaign.  

2. He is the incumbent. 
In many elections, the incumbent has the upper hand over his opponent. He can utilize the powers of the Presidency to make policy decisions that can benefit him politically. 

Recently, the Obama administration has limited the deportation of illegal immigrants to persons who pose threat to public safety and national security, saving hundreds of thousands or even millions of immigrants from being kicked out of the country. It was a policy reversal made to appease Obama-disillusioned Hispanics who comprise the fastest-growing voting bloc in the US.   

Obama can still do many things that are within the powers of his office to gain political advantage in the coming months.  

3. The lousy Republican presidential field.
Take a look at the present crop of candidates who are vying for the GOP nomination. You’ll see moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, a libertarian named Ron Paul, conservatives namely Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum  and Herman Cain and other lesser-known candidates.  And let’s count in Sarah Palin and George Pataki who are speculated to enter the race.  

Based on the recent surveys, we can point Rick Perry and Mitt Romney as the 2 Republicans leading the field.  Aside from their fundraising prowess, the two also have the grounds to claim they have the experience and skills to fix what Americans are most concerned of: the economy. 

Romney was a businessman having co-founded one of the largest private equity investment firms in the nation Bain Capital before serving as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. 

Perry, on the other hand, is the current and the longest-serving governor of Texas. He has presided over the so-called “Texas Miracle”, the phenomenal rise of job creation in the Lone Star State since 2009 when most states have been shedding jobs. 

If the current polling trends continue up to next year (which I’m pretty sure it will unless a near perfect Republican enters the race), the battle for the GOP nomination will be fought between Perry and Romney. 

And this is where it’s most risky for Republicans: they can nominate Perry and lose the independent votes or they can half-heartedly choose Romney, a known political flip-flopper who championed universal health care law in Massachusetts, the state-level blueprint of its national equivalent health care law derisively christened by Republicans as ‘Obamacare’. 

If they hand in the nomination to Romney for the sake of taking back the White House next year, it doesn’t, however, automatically guarantee that Romney will beat Obama in November 2012.  Why?

Because the Obama campaign can launch aggressive personal attacks against Romney that can cripple his chances in the general election. Lately, some Obama campaign aides have said they are digging up Romney’s record in Bain Capital to be thrown out to the public (if Romney gets nominated by the Republicans), casting Romney as a greedy capitalist – a far cry from the compassionate job creator that the former Massachusetts governor is trying to frame to the public nowadays.  And during his tenure as governor, Massachusetts ranked at 47th in job creation among the 50 states – something that can invalidate his claim as a job creator.

Furthermore, Obama can frame Romney as a flip-flopper who can’t seem to have a clear stand on the issues. He once campaigned as a pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-gay rights candidate for the US Senate in liberal Massachusetts against the late Senator Ted Kennedy only to change his stand on these issues since his failed 2008 presidential campaign so that he can make himself acceptable to the deeply conservative voters of the Republican primaries. 

Americans distrust flip-flopping politicians and tend to go for leaders with strong convictions. And if Obama succeeds in framing Romney as belonging to the former, then he can expect to get sizable number of votes in 2012. 

While this kind of campaign strategy could backfire as it might sour voters who are tired of mud-slinging, it has also a great chance of success. Just, recall how Bush trounced Kerry in 2004 despite his below-50 percent approval ratings.

The third reason is by far, the most promising for Obama and one that should make him stay calm and not be panicky despite the nation’s economic woes. The Republicans who are vying to challenge him next year are extreme if not lackluster politicians – a factor that cannot intensify or even neutralize the tide against Obama.

Unless a charismatic Republican emerges in the primaries to challenge Obama in the polls, someone who can excite Republicans while attracting crucial independent votes, someone who can inspire optimism like Reagan did, the 2012 US Presidential Elections will look more of a Bush-like re-election than a Carter-like, one-term presidency for Obama.    


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