First off, let me state the obvious--US presidential campaigns are interminable. Only diehard political junkies like myself seem to keep up with these "who's in--who out" matters at this point. But its clear that the Republicans are sweating a bit already at what looks like a weak field heading into the next Presidential race.
The November 2012 general election, according to CNN and anybody else with a calender is 531 days off. And its more and more clear to me that what matters most is not just who is governing but what kind of influence from lobbying groups and campaign money generate in the leaders and Representatives we do elect. But at the same time the success the GOP enjoyed in 2010 has led to a cavalier attitude toward restructuring Federal programs that is not borne out by popular feeling. As one critic put it, "Americans voted for the Republicans in 2010 because they thought the house of state needed to be redecorated. The GOP appears to think they are commissioned to tear the whole house down to start over."
Therein lies Obama and the Democrats' opportunity.
But we may at least have seen the "Hezbollah Wing"/tea party wing of the Republican Party alienate the mainstream American independent voter with their threats to try and default on the national debt in the name of further tax cuts for millionaires and draconian schemes like the abolition of the Medicare Program. Medicare is one domestic government program that retains popularity because of the high prices of the medical establishment.
The Republican obsession to deregulate and privatize everything in sight might work on some industries, and people can be fooled over issues like banking regulation because their is so much manipulation and smoke and mirrors there. But things like Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance for the laid off worker are matters that hit home, literally.
Let's look where the public stands on Medicare Reform, to take just one example, from a recent Associated Press Poll published last week:
"In the poll, 54 percent said it's possible to balance the budget without cutting spending for Medicare, and 59 percent said the same about Social Security.
"Taking both programs together, 48 percent said the government could balance the budget without cutting either one. Democrats and political independents were far more likely than Republicans to say that neither program will have to be cut.
"The recession cost millions their jobs and sent retirement savings accounts into a nosedive. It may also have underscored the value of government programs. Social Security kept sending monthly benefits to 55 million recipients, like clockwork; Medicare went on paying for everything from wheelchairs to heart operations.
"Overall, 70 percent in the poll said Social Security is "extremely" or "very" important to their financial security in retirement, and 72 percent said so for Medicare. Sixty-two percent said that both programs are extremely or very important."
Not good news for the newest class of Republicans, those who bliindly have followed House Budget Chairman and Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan in a crazy plan to gut Medicare, with crazier plans for Social Security waiting in the wings to justify further tax cuts for the top one or two percent of income earners and/or receivers.
Bernard Goldberg, a disgruntled former CBS on-camera news reader who turned into a Fox News contributor a few years back, gave some analysis recently about Obama's chances. He recalled that the election might be shaping up the way the 1936 Presidential Election did in some ways. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected not because he had ended all economic ills in the country, but because the public recognized that with all the the ups and downs of New Deal experimentation, his leadership was moving the nation in the right direction. Plus its hard to deny a sitting President a second term.
Goldberg writes: "After all, sitting presidents usually win re-election. Since 1936, 11 incumbent presidents have run for a second term and only three were defeated – Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
"And, like FDR, Barack Obama has something else going for him – an intangible that may compensate for bad economic news: likability -- an essential characteristic for anyone hoping to do well in politics.Except for his enemies – and that’s not too strong a word if you’ve ever listened to his most passionate detractors -- Americans generally like Barack Obama, even when they disagree with him on matters of policy.
"They like his smile, they like the way he talks, they like the way he dresses and carries himself, and yes, they like the fact that he is the first black man elected president of the United States of America. In some ways, it is a source of national pride."
Is some of this superficial? Yes, it is. But politics is more visceral then rock-hard scientific theories. How else to explain the enormous success of Ronald Reagan, a man elected seemingly because of his style over his illogical "voodoo economics" which even leaders in his own party thought daft? If Reagan could carry 49 states in 1984, what might prevent Obama from taking 35-40 and walking away with the election.
Who are the Republicans in the race now? Who else is likely to get in? Sarah Palin? Here's how a Public Policy Institute estimate shows what would happen in a Obama-Palin Race:
Well, what if some GOP types get cold feet about Palin. So they nominate some governor with low national public identity? Yes, dark horses have won the Presidency, but can a candidate for the Republicans win and appeal to the hard right tea baggers and the independent voters who just plain like Obama? I doubt it. And another big Obama victory will certainly eat away at the GOP majority in the House. (Less likely in the Senate, though, where the Democrats have to defend 23 seats to the GOP's 10.
So maybe Barack Obama should take a page from FDR's 1936 playbook. That's not an original idea of mine as this clip from the MSNBC cable network shows.