The Campaign Spot

Be Cheerful; 2012 Will Not Be a Rerun of 2008.

Jonah addresses the conventional wisdom that Obama is likely to win reelection in 2012.

I’m manic-depressive about the GOP’s chances in 2012. One day I can come up with some really strong arguments for why Obama looks more like toast than Elvis Patterson; the next day it feels like the wind is at his back and he just has to avoid disasters.

Since much of my audience yearns for optimism, and shudders when they don’t hear it from conservative commentators, some quick reasons to bet against Obama again:

The Economy: Often you’ll see people point to the unemployment rate. Barring some sudden, steep drop in the unemployment rate, the Republican nominee will be able to say that the unemployment rate for every month of the Obama presidency has been higher than every month of George W. Bush’s presidency, every month of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and every month of George H.W. Bush’s presidency. What’s more, the current slow slide in the unemployment rate is driven heavily by Americans leaving the workforce, which is not the way we traditionally like to see people leaving unemployment. We want to see them getting jobs.

Throw in other not-terribly encouraging economic indicators like anemic wage growth and high gas prices, and many Americans will be receptive to the argument that Obama’s presidency has been a four-year recession. To quote the wise philosopher Dee Snider, “if that’s your best, your best won’t do.”

The World: By 2008, many Americans were exhausted with Iraq and tired of large military actions overseas to improve the lives of far-off Muslims who often reacted to our efforts with contempt. By 2012, it doesn’t seem likely that Americans will feel terribly different, except that now Obama is the candidate of overseas wars – er, kinetic military actions, like Libya and Afghanistan – and the Republican is likely to tap into a somewhat isolationist vein, arguing that the days of the U.S. taxpayer financing nation-building are though. This isn’t even accounting for the idea of an attack like the attempted Detroit flight bombing or the attempted Times Square bombing working. Obama might enjoy a rally-around-the-flag effect for a while, but his GOP rival is likely to argue Obama’s policies have made us less safe.

He’s lost his touch: For an allegedly great communicator, most of Obama’s efforts to move public opinion since taking office have fallen flat. He never moved the numbers on health care. He’s no good as a surrogate for Democrats, as Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Martha Coakley, and scores of Democrats learned in the midterms. He and his team can’t resist overpromising; his team put out a laughable chart about how the stimulus would keep unemployment low, and by September 2010, “Recovery Summer” was a punchline.

Jimmy Fallon had one of the first jokes that really hit Obama, just before Christmas 2009: “Michelle Obama’s not that excited about Christmas this year. It seems every year the president makes her this great big promise about how great a present he’ll get her, and then he never delivers.” The joke killed. People began to draw a conclusion about Obama: He always promises the moon and gives you much, much less.

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