News & Politics

FLASHBACK: Democrats Doubted Obama's Reelection Chances Eight Years Ago

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Back in April, I detailed seven similarities between the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and today I’d like to add another one. While listening to talk radio and watching the news recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about Trump being underwater in approval rating and state polling, where Trump can’t afford to lose. Pundits on the left and right seem to be casting doubt about Trump’s reelection chances. It’s all ridiculously premature, of course, as the 2020 election is more than a year away and Democrats still haven’t even weeded down their field of candidates to fewer than twenty, let alone two.

It is cliché to say that anything can happen between now and Election Day, but I do think it is important to note that at this point in Obama’s presidency, August 2011, Democrats were experiencing buyer’s remorse about Barack Obama, even just a few short months after the death of Osama bin Laden.

[Former Clinton official Morris Reid] added that the president remained a formidable campaigner and fund-raiser and should not be ruled out of the fight in 2012. But he said some Democrats were feeling “buyer’s remorse” for selecting the president in his epic battle with Mrs Clinton for the 2008 Democratic nomination.

“The notion everyone is talking about is ‘is he Jimmy Carter or will he be a one-term president’,” he said.

Gary Pearce, a Democratic strategist in North Carolina, a swing state Mr Obama is likely to struggle to retain in 2012, said: “Democrats are worried. He looks weak, he doesn’t say anything that grabs you, and people are looking for some kind of magic.”

He said some activists were asking “do we need someone tougher to fight the tea party?” “You see a yearning for a Bill Clinton-type approach and Hillary would reflect that. Obama is just a different political animal, he is a low-key guy,” he added.

Mr Obama’s approval rating has fallen dramatically since the killing of Osama bin Laden in early May, and he has failed to outline a vision for how he will improve chronic unemployment and a housing market in which one if five mortgage holders are in negative equity.

Drew Westen, an author, and professor of psychology at Emory University, blasted Obama in a piece in the New York Times, expressing that buyer’s remorse. “Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president,” he wrote.

Polling in October 2011 showed that Democrats felt that Hillary would have done a better job than Obama in handling the economy, and many in the party thought Obama was a liability in the coming elections.

Perhaps no one is questioning the 2008 results more than Democratic politicians who must face the voters next year. Right now, it looks like President Obama, rather than offering coattails to those below him on the ticket, may instead be serving up an anchor. This is ironic, when you look back at what actually happened during the Democrats’ 2008 primary, and at who made Obama the party’s nominee.

In fact, in many ways, Obama was seen as politically poisonous at the time.

According to a recent CNN poll, only Republican Mitt Romney appears to be in a position to offer a strong challenge to Obama in 2012. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, Romney’s nomination is anything but certain.

The results of the 2010 midterms, however, when combined with recent special election results, indicate that, with Obama at the top of the ticket, the prospects for many other Democratic elected officials are rather dismal.

While it is true that Obama ultimately won reelection, he was poisonous for his party overall. Over Obama’s two terms, his party suffered “a net loss of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts, including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships and the presidency.” Obama is still personally popular in the Democratic Party today, but in any election where he was not on the ballot, he was a disaster for his party.

I’m certainly not saying that Trump shouldn’t take polling and other indicators seriously so much as I’m saying those who are dismissing his ability to get reelected shouldn’t write him off yet. Obama managed to get reelected despite major setbacks in the War on Terror, the unpopularity of Obamacare, an economy that hadn’t recovered yet, and a party that wondered if they’d picked the candidate four years earlier. Donald Trump heads into the 2020 election in a stronger position than Obama was in 2011.