Can Obama Be Reelected?

A Rasmussen poll finds that 54% of voters think it is at least somewhat likely that President Obama will be reelected. This reflects the fact that there hasn’t been much talk in the press about how dim his prospects are, or deserve to be. The conventional wisdom, and lots of social science data, would suggest that a president whose record on the economy is as bad as Obama’s can’t possibly win a second term. This is summed up neatly by Michael Ramirez:

Obama has other problems, too. His base is restive. As Peggy Noonan pointed out last week, no one loves the president:

It’s something I’ve never seen in national politics.

It is that nobody loves Obama. This is amazing because every president has people who love him, who feel deep personal affection or connection, who have a stubborn, even beautiful refusal to let what they know are just criticisms affect their feelings of regard. At the height of Bill Clinton’s troubles there were always people who’d say, “Look, I love the guy.” They’d often be smiling—a wry smile, a shrugging smile. Nobody smiles when they talk about Mr. Obama. There were people who loved George W. Bush when he was at his most unpopular, and they meant it and would say it. But people aren’t that way about Mr. Obama. He has supporters and bundlers and contributors, he has voters, he may win. But his support is grim support.

Of the groups Noonan names, it is perhaps bundlers who are most important. Obama retains one major strength: he is the greatest money-machine in the history of politics. But it is hard to see how the billion dollars he intends to spend can be enough to save him.

For some time now, Obama has trailed a generic Republican opponent in likely voter polls. Next year, that is probably what the GOP needs: a generic Republican. The Democrats will try to distract voters’ attention from Obama’s record by making the race about his Republican opponent. As a result, we are in for the dirtiest campaign ever, and the Republicans need a candidate without unnecessary loose ends and eccentricities. Still, no matter how low the Democrats stoop, a president’s campaign for a second term inevitably turns on his record. Barring some kind of miracle, and with all the usual qualifications about how far away November 2012 is, it is hard to see how Obama’s dismal record can lead voters to reward him with another four years.


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