Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman

President Barack Obama in the biggest “Duh!” this side of Charlie Sheen announced he’s going to run for re-election. The conventional wisdom: he’s in better shape going into 2011 than the Republicans. Is the conventional wisdom correct? Is it wrong?

Barack Obama Hope 2012

Randy Bish / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (click for more Obama cartoons)

If you consider where Barack Obama is politically, and where he could be given his overflowing plate of problems, the conclusion is: as of April 2011 it looks like Barack Obama will be re-elected since the Republicans are gravitas-candidate challenged. But beware: there are as many “on the other hands” in this political picture as hands on the Hindu Goddess Kali.

In just one day you can read that: a)a sitting President is almost never defeated unless he faces a challenge for the Presidential nomination from within his own party b)Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton were the only Democratic Presidents in the past 90 years who were re-elected. History suggests Obama’s chances look good. Wait! History suggests Obama’s chances look BAD.

Here’s a thumbnail guide of “yes he’s ahead” and “no he can lose.” Hold onto it going into election year.

Seven factors that put Obama in a good position for re-election:

1. Independent Voters: Polls now show Obama gaining back some lost independent voter support as he takes some stands upsetting his party’s liberal base. Reports suggest he is consciously playing to the middle. It worked for Bill Clinton.

2. By Default His Coalition Stands Behind Him: He’ll likely again get support from the increasingly growing block of Hispanic voters, plus African-Americans, young voters and seniors.

3. The New Republican Party: The National Journal’s Charlie Cook writes that “talking with Republican pollsters, strategists and veteran campaign professionals recently, I now hear sounds of concern that haven’t been heard in almost two years.” Cook echoes what I’ve often noted: there is a big gap between the GOP base’s attitudes and demands and independent voters.

4. A Rebounding Economy: Job numbers are (for now) going up.

5. No Serious Democratic Challenger: Sorry, liberals. Dennis Kucinch would NOT qualify.

6. Organized Labor’s Rebirth: Republican Governors have done more to revitalize the American labor movement than the American labor movement. 2012 will be labor payback time.

7. The GOP’s Seniors Problem: Fine tuning Medicare is courageous but with no tax increases or sacrifices for the rich trying to touch it would be a gift to Democrats.

But Barack Obama and the Democrats shouldn’t start planning his post-election party yet..

Conservative talk hosts continue to have enormous influence in motivating listeners to vote and pressuring Republicans in Congress. Fox News and the Internet give wide publicity to often inaccurate anti-Obama narratives which are picked up by the mainstream media — then covered more by Fox News and the Internet.

The Obama team is a reactive-mode political “B team” that hasn’t produced a Karl Rove or a James Carville. And Obama? This legendary orator often comes across as boring and operates in defensive mode. Obama’s political foes don’t fear him. And then there’s the economy, the economy and…the economy. The website 270toWin finds13 scenarios for a 2011 electoral vote tie.

CNN’s John Avlon points to an overlooked Obama flaw. “The fact that Obama has so far failed to build on his 2008 coalition is a significant hurdle to clear on his way to re-election. Reagan-Democrats carried the Gipper to a landslide re-election in 1984 — there are few, if any, Obama-Republicans today.”

Is Obama poised for re-election? Or will be become yet one more Democratic President who goes down in history as someone who ironically cleared the way for policies he and his followers mistakenly assumed would be impossible on that giddy night seemingly a lifetime ago when he was first elected President?


Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at [email protected] and can be booked to speak at your event

Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman.