Obama 2012: Never Underestimate the Power of Incumbency
The built-in advantages of the office may overcome all the president's shortcomings.
July 1, 2011 - 12:00 am
Karl Rove recently wrote a widely circulated op-ed titled “Why Obama Is Likely to Lose in 2012.”
Here is the opening paragraph:
President Barack Obama is likely to be defeated in 2012. The reason is that he faces four serious threats. The economy is very weak and unlikely to experience a robust recovery by Election Day. Key voter groups have soured on him. He’s defending unpopular policies. And he’s made bad strategic decisions.
Yes, it’s all true, and Rove backs up each reason with relevant data. However, he fails to emphasize the one overwhelming advantage President Obama has against his 2012 opponent: the power, glory, and respect that is accorded the person who holds the title “president of the United States.”
Historically, holders of this esteemed title have a 67.7% chance of re-election. As a co-writer and I noted earlier this year, and as was mentioned later by CBS News, “in the last 56 U.S. presidential elections, 31 have involved incumbents; 21 of those candidates have won more than one term.”
Since Karl Rove knows well the reverence accorded the president, he does mention incumbency once in this context:
While he needs to raise money and organize, he decided to be a candidate this year rather than president. He has thus unnecessarily abandoned one of incumbency’s great strengths, which is the opportunity to govern and distance himself from partisan politics until next spring.
It is Rove’s belief that President Obama’s decision to act less presidential and more like a candidate, while governing as a partisan in 2011, will help thwart his re-election chances.
This is where I respectfully disagree with Mr. Rove.
In fact, I believe Obama’s carefully calculated partisan behavior will actually increase his chances of winning a second term.
Since he took office in January 2009, President Obama has never stopped campaigning. He derives his energy, his very life blood, from being out on the trail, speaking to crowds large or small, and “pressing the flesh.”
During his entire presidency thus far, Obama has wanted us to think all those visits to factories, schools, campuses, town halls, and military bases were 100% official. The truth is the backdrop and especially the choice of state were always political. This was Obama’s way of keeping the campaign going.
Having been a “spy” since 2008 on Obama’s infamous campaign e-mail list “Organizing for America,” I have seen firsthand, sometimes on a daily basis during key moments of his presidency, how the campaign truly never ended.
“Organizing for America,” supposedly 13 million strong, has officially re-tooled for the 2012 campaign and is now called Obama for America.
Like a good salesman, Obama can not stop selling his product — himself — long after the sale is finalized. It’s as if he knows his God-given talents are more suited to “campaigner in chief” than the expected chief executive/commander in chief.
As Rove suggests, Obama should, as an incumbent, “distance himself from partisan politics.” But President Obama has never distanced himself from partisan politics. Obama has always been and continues to be a bitter partisan Democrat.
So why should he stop now with 2012 around the corner?
All Obama will continue to do up until November 6, 2012, is recite the same old red-meat rhetoric about how those scary Republicans messed things up so bad; thus, why on earth would you let them back into the White House?