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Opening Arguments

Terms of engagement

Those of us who are either worried or ecstatic about the prospect of a one-term Obama presidency should calm down, says The Journal Gazette's Tracy Warner. Other presidents have looked bad halfway through their first terms and recovered quite nicely:

In August of his second year as president, his approval rating dipped to 39 percent, partly because he was so heavily criticized over his plan for health care reform.

Elected as a centrist, his critics cast him as a social liberal. Just 19 months into his presidency, his re-election chances looked iffy, at best.

President Obama? Try President Clinton.

Well, yes, but Clinton was the consummate politician, and when the polls told him he was going too far left for the country, he "triangulated" and tacked back to the center. Barack Obama is too much of a committed ideologue (a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your own political persuasion) to do that.

 Another president was elected on a platform of hope for America and change, but the slumbering economy kept going downhill after he took office.

Unemployment was bad when he began his presidency, but it got much worse. Less than two years on the job, half the nation disapproved of his job as president.

President Obama? Try President Reagan.

But Reagan pushed through policies that energized the private sector, especially the small businesses so vital to job creation. Mostly he got government out of the way. Obama, on the other hand, has increased government intervention massively and scared the hell out of small businesses, guaranteeing a prolonged recession.

Obama may indeed recover enough for a second term, but it won't be by emulating Clinton or Reagan. He'll have to find another formula. There's a clue to how he might do it in Warner's last sentence on the subject: "Critics who have already declared Obama cannot win re-election in 2012 are way early to make such predictions, especially considering the GOP's lack of great candidates." If it's too early to write off Obama's chances, it's also too early to dismiss the GOP's "lack of great candidates." There are some very promising ones out there. But the Republicans are perfectly capable of screwing up and choosing a lousy one.


tim zank
Tue, 08/17/2010 - 9:14am

Obviously I disagree with Warner. There isn't a magic wand big enough to waive away the trillions of dollars of debt this nation is saddled with and now committed to, and absolutely no way jobs, housing or manufacturing is coming back any time soon. This Prez (and congress) hasn't made a few mis-steps, he has done what he promised on the campaign trail, he has "fundamentally transformed this country" into something we will all be very very sorry for and may never recover from.

tim zank
Tue, 08/17/2010 - 9:23am

Also, an after thought....This guy ain't no Reagan or Clinton either. He's in waaaaaay over his head.

Lewis Allen
Tue, 08/17/2010 - 6:31pm

Leo, I think you're pretty much dead-on in your analysis. Unless there's significant economic improvement, It'll be hard for Obama to maintain office. But, like you said, it depends on who the opposition is. And Tim, you're correct, too, in that Obama is no Reagan or Clinton. He's coldly analytical in a way that doesn't seem to resonate with the electorate. Whatever your stripe, RR and BC were both great at connecting with voters.

Tue, 08/17/2010 - 9:40pm

BO is great at connecting with voters even more than RR or BC, and he doesn't have to lie about liberating Auschwitz or diddling an intern with a cigar. He just doesn't connect with you. He's an obvious shoo-in but your derangement syndrome doesn't let you see it.

I predict a '12 landslide for the Big O, even if the GOP manages to put Captain Comb-Over