Obama: The 2012 campaign begins

President Obama confirmed that he’ll seek re-election in 2012.

Can he do it again? asked Michael Shear in The New York Times. President Obama this week confirmed that he’ll seek re-election in 2012, and his attempt to get a head start is an indication of the “new political challenges” he’s facing. No longer an unknown outsider who can get by on a message of “hope” and “change,” the president and his advisers are keenly aware that they can’t count on a grassroots groundswell of quasi-religious, anti-Republican fervor to put him over the top. This time, he must campaign while presiding over “his own unpopular wars, an economic recovery that remains fragile,” an unpopular health-care bill, and a rancorous Washington culture that looks very much like the one he promised to transform back in 2008. But this time, Obama will have the “bully pulpit” of the presidency, and the argument that he needs four more years to make good on his promise to be a transformational president.

“History is on Obama’s side,” said Susan Page in USA Today. Incumbent presidents enjoy a huge advantage. To blow it, they generally have to be blamed for widespread economic despair, as Jimmy Carter was when he lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Obama faces anger over the economy, but growth and hiring are finally coming back—at precisely “the right time” for him to take credit for it. A strong Republican challenger could still beat him, said Ross Douthat in The New York Times, but right now, the GOP doesn’t have anyone matching that description. So far the GOP field is overrun with baggage-laden perennials like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and wacky fringe candidates like Michele Bachmann. For the good of the country, the GOP needs to put up a credible “fresh face” who can offer a new, leaner vision of government, before Obama gets too much of a head start.

Whomever the Republicans nominate, said Michael Grunwald in Time, the election will hinge on what voters think of Obama’s performance. He’s got a “counterfactual problem” there, because his proudest achievements all involve events that didn’t happen. He has to argue that his bank bailout and stimulus package avoided an economic depression, that his health-care-reform bill will eventually bring down costs and the deficit, that he prevented another terrorist attack. All of these claims are more than plausible, but “‘it would have been much worse without me’ ain’t much of a bumper sticker.”

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.