Is re-election possible for Barack Obama?
The US presidential election that will take place on 6 November 2012 is by no means a shoe-in for the incumbent, Barack Obama. If he wants to win the next election, Mr Obama will have to dispense with the entrancing speeches of dreams that powered his bid in 2008. It will not be enough to captivate and walk among the people: he will have to speak for them. He has a gritty, attritional and difficult fight ahead of him.
The Republicans are convinced that they can make Obama the first president since George H. W. Bush to serve one term in office (although Bush Senior’s stint in power did follow fellow Republican Ronald Reagan’s two terms, giving the Grand Old Party 12 consecutive years in the presidency). Before Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996, you have to go all the way back to Franklin D. Roosevelt to find a Democrat who served two terms in a row.
Obama is the underdog and he needs to lean away from the oratorical tours de force he delivered on the 2008 campaign trail. He will have to demonstrate his capability to deal with the financial crisis on a simpler, smaller, more direct scale. Millions of Americans want some tangible results from his big-hitting discourse of fairness and equality.
A big stain on his economic record was the downgrade of US debt by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s on 5 August this year. However, Mr Obama should demonstrate that a mediatory and pactist attitude is a positive aspect to his presidency. Those Americans who sang “Yes, we can” and believed in change were railing against the bullish and headstrong Bush administration. He should affirm a commitment to compromise and a humble comprehension of the grave situation facing the country. He should not be woolly; he was not quick enough to stand up for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ‘Obamacare’, to give it its nickname.
On overseas matters, he should underline that the US does not have to go charging in on the lead horse. The UN-sanctioned military conflict in Libya was headed by NATO. So far on his watch US-led military intervention has been more subtle: Osama bin Laden has been caught; special forces have been sent to Central Africa.
Showing his calm side is fine when the discussions are modest but, at times, Obama has seemed indecisive. He needs to sharpen his weaponry if he is set on a fight because the Republicans (despite the current wrangling between the candidates) are ready for the battle. If Obama wants to continue to be sitting in the Oval Office next autumn, he needs to keep his sleeves rolled up and celebrate his successes, promote his mediatory tone and choose his aims carefully. It is an extremely hard time to be in the US hot-seat economically but he must not shrug his shoulders and sigh. He has broken many barriers to get to the top, he his going to have to break some more to stay there.