Opinion Brief

Will Libya hurt Obama in 2012?

After weeks of revolt in Libya, America's military intervenes, drawing criticism from both left and right. Will this haunt the president during next year's campaign?

President Obama's decision to intervene in Libya is backed by a majority of Americans, but he's still getting battered from all sides in Washington. Liberals have attacked him for launching an unnecessary war without congressional approval. Conservatives have swiped at him for waiting too long to get involved, and failing to clearly define the mission. Obama has pledged that the U.S. role in the fighting will be limited and brief, but he has plenty of doubters on that front, too. With critics all around, could Obama's 2012 reelection hopes be a victim of Operation Odyssey Dawn?

Yes, Obama may have lost the Left: Libya is not only "a significant military risk" for Obama, but "a big political one," too, says Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune. Republicans already dislike him, and launching a war could send disappointed Democrats "looking for their Gene McCarthy — a credible challenger who stands for peace." If history is any guide, a strong challenge from the Left would be "fatal to Obama's re-election prospects."
"Will Obama be challenged from the left in 2012?"

If the war doesn't sink him, the economy will: Obama's "incomprehensible" Libya strategy has his presidency "hanging by a thread," says John Podhoretz in Commentary. And while "there's no reason anyone would cast a vote in 2012 directly based on what happens in Libya," it won't take a mess abroad to scuttle Obama's reelection hopes. There's already plenty of problems here at home, and most Americans think the country is on the wrong track. "If the economy remains anemic while the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, The One will be The One Term no matter who runs against him."
"Obama's presidency still hangs by a thread, but for a different reason"

And yet, the GOP hopefuls can't capitalize: So far, "every would-be Republican challenger is lagging behind Obama in the polls," says Robert Schroeder at MarketWatch. And that's when unemployment is 8.9 percent, health care reform is heading to the Supreme Court, and "even some Democrats are questioning the president’s intervention in Libya." Until the Republicans find a formidable challenger, Obama remains the obvious frontrunner, regardless of the situation in Libya.
"GOP finds Obama hard to beat — so far"

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