On Boxing Day, it’s worth noting that Barack Obama is down but not out.You could tell as much from the contrast between his petulant postelection press conference and his peppy pre-Christmas press conference. In the former he was crabby about accepting Republicans’ demands that income tax rates on all taxpayers not be raised. In the latter he was celebrating the lame-duck Congress’ acceptance of his stands on the New START treaty, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and even the previously reviled tax deal.
Obama has obviously figured out that Americans prefer to see their president describe the glass as half full rather than half empty. That’s a good lesson for him, and for Republicans as well, especially those who believe that the Obama Democrats’ shellacking in the midterms means that Obama himself will definitely lose in 2012.
History should provide some caution for these folks. Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush saw their parties fare pretty well in their midterm elections. But they were defeated for re-election anyway.
In contrast, pundits thought that Ronald Reagan’s Republicans took a shellacking in 1982 (actually, about half their losses resulted from redistricting) and Bill Clinton’s Democrats definitely did in 1994. But both the 40th and 42nd presidents were resoundingly re-elected, carrying 49 and 31 states.
Several factors will likely work less strongly against Obama in 2012 than against the Obama Democrats in 2010. Turnout will be different, for one thing. We may see again the record turnout of blacks we saw in 2008. Young people who pretty much shunned the polls in the midterms may turn out and vote — though the 34-point margin they gave to Obama was halved to 17 points for congressional Democrats in 2010.
The balance of enthusiasm favored Republicans and conservatives in 2010, as it had favored Democrats in 2006 and 2008. It could conceivably shift and favor the Democrats once again.
On the other hand, he has to get there. And as Tom Brokaw noted on Meet the Press today, “We’ll see” if President Obama can learn on the job, adding that he hasn’t had the same “baptism by fire,” as Brokaw put it, that former presidents Reagan and Clinton had while governors:
Why, it’s almost as if the American people didn’t really know who they were electing in 2008:
Or as someone once said, “My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of ‘personal discovery.’”