Barack Obama’s Exit

Barack Obama’s Exit

They’re saying that Obama is done for – that the American president’s chances for a second term are nil. The analysts point to his approval rating, which has fallen to below 40 percent. Editorials in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times spell out the consensus: “A Diminished President”; “The President Surrenders.“ Will Obama become one of those oddities of modern American history, a president voted out after only four years in office?

For that to happen, of course, the Republicans will have to beat him.

The odds certainly don’t favor Obama. Counting against him are two stalled wars and a sputtering economy, with more people out of work than at any time since the 1930s. Americans vote from their pocketbooks. Bill Clinton’s verdict was right: “It’s the economy, stupid!” Every day a larger number of Americans owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The president gets the blame for bad fiscal times.

Obama’s re-election campaign will be sailing into the fiercest ideological storm the U.S. has seen since the Barry Goldwater candidacy of 1964. A kamikaze tendency has shown itself on the political right. The energy motor of the Republicans, the Tea Party, is the same faction that drove the government to the brink of default earlier this month. To the Tea Party and many energized Republicans, Obama is the Prince of Darkness, a cerebral elitist who is selling America down the drain.

But who are the Republicans who might take him on in November, 2012? Would any of them look better to the voters than he will? What does the list of present Republican hopefuls show us?

We can begin by eliminating Michelle Bachman, the darling of the Tea Party, who came in first in a vote among 17,000 Republican Party activists at the August 13 Iowa straw poll – the traditional presidential campaign kickoff. She will not last, and sober Republicans will be glad to see her fade away. Representative Bachman is a colorful novelty, but her positions border on the weird and will frighten away the centrist bloc that carries American elections. The same is true of Sarah Palin, who has fallen into Bachman’s shadow.

What about Mitt Romney, who, despite the flash of Rick Perry’s emergence, is still regarded as the Republican front- runner? Romney is picture-perfect handsome, and had an excellent record as Massachusetts governor. But he has two problems. He is dull; there’s no evidence of fire in his belly. And he is a flip-flop man to a cartoonish degree, changing his positions to ride prevailing winds. He is shopworn merchandise. John McCain and others beat him to the nomination in 2008.

Rick Perry announced himself the day of the Iowa straw vote, and stole much of the attention. Perry is a God-fearing Texan – governor of the state for ten years – with rugged TV cowboy looks and a tendency to put his foot in his mouth, which he did recently, sending shudders through Republican ranks by calling the head of the Federal Reserve a traitor.

Newt Gingrich? Herman Cain? Ron Paul? Excuse me. The first is a pathetic spent force, the second has too little public face, the third is a single-issue hobbyhorse rider. Iowa pushed Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum out of the running. Why would Paul Ryan give up his powerful House committee chairmanship to run? The most engaging of the Republicans may be Chris Christie, but he would be reluctant to leave the New Jersey governorship at this date, and would need to let his avoirdupois become more nationally familiar – America has not elected a fat president since Grover Cleveland.

So there we are. Obama may be limping, but his campaigning skills could outmatch any of the current Republican hopefuls. As the campaign progresses, Republican bigwigs may gnash their teeth at where they let the Tea Party put them.