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Bad news for Republicans: Obama is fulfilling his potential

Published: January 28, 2011
Section: Opinions


When President Obama entered office on Jan. 19, 2009, initial expectations were beyond unrealistic. Additionally, the raucous health care debate and the White House’s political operation’s failure to trumpet their many legislative successes made President Obama appear to be a disappointment. After two years in office, however, President Obama has finally begun to hit his stride and is well on his way to getting reelected.

It is hard to believe, but just a few months ago, Republicans and political pundits could not stop talking about President Obama’s apparent imminent political demise. After all, according to a Gallup poll, President Obama’s job approval rating stood at just 42 percent on Oct. 19 of last year. A few weeks later, the Democrats got “thumped” in the midterm elections, losing a historic 63 seats in the House of Representatives and six seats in the U.S. Senate. President Obama, however, responded perfectly to the election results of last November by negotiating a tax deal with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and getting the New Start treaty, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the 9/11 First Responder’s Health Care Bill passed during the lame duck session of Congress. Additionally, President Obama recently gave a universally acclaimed speech after the tragedy in Tucson. Today, the same Gallup poll puts President Obama’s job approval rating back up at 50 percent, and a focus group put together by Democracy Corps, which was filled with Independent- and Republican-leaning voters, had a very positive reaction to his State of the Union address.

Politically, President Obama is clearly back on track, with his reelection in 2012 all but assured due to the advantages of the Democrats in the Electoral College and the likely weak Republican field of candidates.

In the 1970s and 1980s, political pundits spoke about a Republican “lock” on the Electoral College. This talk was justified because Republicans won 24 states in every presidential election from 1972 through 1988 that equaled 219 electoral votes, and another 17 states worth another 196 electoral votes in five of those six presidential elections. Since 1992, however, the Democrats “Blue Wall” have replaced the Republican “lock.” Ronald Brownstein, writing for National Journal, has pointed out that Democrats have won 18 states plus the District of Columbia in all five of the last presidential elections, which after the recent census equals 242 electoral votes.

Additionally, Democratic presidential candidates have won three additional states in four out of the past five elections as well, worth another 15 electoral votes. This structural advantage in the Electoral College that Democrats currently enjoy will make President Obama’s reelection campaign much easier.

When the Republican nominee for president finally emerges for 2012, they will likely have spent a year running in a hotly contested and highly negative Republican primary. During this time, President Obama will get to appear presidential and make full use of the resources available to an incumbent president. Additionally, the Republican field of likely presidential candidates is looking exceptionally weak, as each potential candidate has flaws; Mitt Romney will have to explain away his support of the Massachusetts health care law, Mitch Daniels has caused an enormous rift between social conservatives and himself due to his call for a “truce” on the social issues, and Tim Pawlenty has failed to generate any excitement around his potential candidacy.

President Obama is no savior; instead he has proven to be an effective center-left president who is well on his way to reelection, and still maintains the potential of changing the country’s political trajectory like Reagan and Roosevelt did before him.