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Is Obama preparing to withdraw?
Approval ratings show widespread discontent with the way US progressed in the Barack years. But Obama doesn’t seem imminently worried – and there’s not much visible fight-back action on his part to regain approval. Is the first black President who won a historic election in reality preparing to withdraw from the race?
“You have just sent a message that Barack Obama will be a one-term president,” Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann hollered to her supporters some moments after winning the Iowa straw poll on August 13, 2011. Although the ultraconservative Ms. Bachmann might not necessarily be one whose views evoke historic submissions, there are critical quarters who have now started suspecting that Barack Obama may well be a one-term president, and that too at his own behest.
On the face of it, such suspicions can be swiftly swept aside – Obama formally launched his 2012 bid in April this year (“Even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today,” he told supporters in an email then). But look beyond the formal statements into Obama’s responses since April, and one could well start adding up to the conclusion that not all is prim and proper in his committed intent to stand for the November 2012 presidential election.
Obama joined the White House with some of the toughest challenges in American history – a shattered economy under huge recessionary pressures, struggling to recover from the Iraq & Afghanistan war. His April nomination announcement resonated the emotion of these issues. Not only was the announcement understated (compared to the frenetic hype and hoopla that was there in 2008), but the 2012 reelection campaign logo (a bland image that simply has the term “2012; barackobama.com” written), the marketing video (titled, “It begins with us”, which features supporters commenting on Obama) and even the subsequent rhetoric has been underplayed. Noticeably absent are also path-breaking slogans – the 2008 campaign had 20 odd iconic slogans being peddled by the Obama camp quite successfully to the public, many revolving around the “Change, we believe in” and “Yes, we can” taglines. The current “It begins with us” slogan is clearly in an alien league.
Unlike the 2008 race, Obama has mystifyingly chosen not to play up the counteroffensive against Republicans who have been rolling over each other in burning Obama’s performance at the stake in national media as well as in their national tours. Obama even gave a miss to the best opportunity he had in destroying the popularity of the Republican party, when they messed up the recent US government debt level increase debate. This is a fact now even accepted by some Democrats. One could have argued that given that the 2012 presidential election is quite some distance away, this is a typical Obama strategy to ‘time it right’. But then, the argument countering it seems stronger, as with each passing day, Obama’s ratings have only fallen since April, and the need of the hour is a smashing image pushup and a slugfest with Republicans.
According to Gallup, while Obama’s overall approval rating was above 50% during April this year, August saw “Obama’s worst three-day average approval rating thus far in his presidency: 38% approval and 55% disapproval from Aug. 25-27.” Obama’s ratings on handling the economy have plunged further from 37% in mid-May to 26% in August. Almost 71% of Americans in the poll have disapproved of Obama’s way of handling the economy. In addition to that, merely 24% have approved the way in which he is handling the federal budget deficit, while his approval of handling Afghanistan has slid to 38%.
Then why has Obama continued his relative refusal to go belligerent on the marketing of his campaign? Some recent statements have been particularly disturbing. In June, Obama spoke to NBC News and commented, “Michelle and the kids are wonderful in that if I said, ‘You know, guys, I want to do something different,’ they’d be fine...They’re not invested in ‘Daddy’ being president or ‘my husband’ being president.” He additionally commented that there are “some days where I say that one term is enough” but that he’s motivated enough to win the second time around. Clearly, there are few US presidents who – if they were seeking a reelection – would play with fire giving out comments like those above. Add to this the statement of Obama’s reelection campaign adviser Bob Gibbs in August – “The president is not focused on keeping his job, most of all. He’s focused on creating jobs for the American people” – and we’re staring at the real possibility of Democrats getting confused about where Obama is headed. When Obama took office in early 2009, he had a well balanced ‘all-star economic team’, with members like former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, Great Depression scholar Christina D. Romer, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker and others. Christina Romer left in September 2010. She was replaced by Austan Goolsbee who later resigned as well. Larry Summers, who was appointed as director of National Economic Council left in January. The Office of Management & Budget director, Peter Orszag left Obama’s team in July, 2011. So did Rahm Emanuel. Yes, Obama is lonely at the top, and the flamboyance with which he entered the White House has more or less diminished to insignificant levels.
For Democrats, Obama is the best bet still for President, that is, if he is onto it. If he wishes to withdraw, the moment has to be now. If not, and if Obama is truly serious about standing for the presidential elections, every week of delay in ramping up the marketing blitzkrieg will only dent Democratic ambitions further.
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