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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Obama Reelection in 2012 will be Tricky

December 28, 2010

Washington is abuzz about the chances of President Barrack Obama to be reelected in 2012, and also who the Republicans will eventually nominate to run against him.

At this stage of the process it’s a parlor game as it is too early to predict with any degree of certainty what the answers to those questions will be.

For his part, President Obama sees the handwriting on the wall. He must change his “political tone” over the next year and a half, or face probable defeat. The majority of the country does not want the high tax and high spending agenda the President pursued during his first two years in office.

No one should believe the President will actually change his political philosophy – he is a committed liberal and wants government to have more control over the lives of people.

So a shift to the political center will be one in "tone" only – basically part of his reelection strategy. The President is good at sounding centralist. He ran in 2008 as someone saying he would govern from the center only to set out on a very liberal course once elected.

This will be his strategy in 2012 and he will count on his liberal base to stand by him in the process, which they will. It may be too late for him to recover in some Red States that he carried in 2008, including Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. A state such as Florida (Obama carried in 2008) is also going to be difficult for him to win next time around.

Some will argue it’s a long way to Election Day 2012; however voters have a tendency to lock in their attitudes about an incumbent early, and usually do not waiver from their position. This voting pattern occurred in the recent congressional midterm elections, and if repeated, it doesn’t give President Obama much time to change voters’ attitudes about his governing philosophy.

Others say the President will be in much better shape if the economy turns around, and this might have been true if the Republicans had not scored such an overwhelming victory in November.  Now, they too stand to get some credit if this occurs. The GOP victory kept the Bush tax cuts from expiring, and Republicans have already said that spending cuts are next on its economic agenda.

Obama’s political advisers will run the President as an “outsider”.  He is planning on situating his campaign from the heartland – Chicago – and has said he wants to get out of the White House and spend more time on the road with ordinary voters.

It’s a mistake for the Obama team to think they can run as a populist “outsider".  They were able to run on such a theme in 2008 but he will now be held accountable for his accomplishments as President, and voters will make their decision on that basis.

Voters want to be assured that their President is doing his best, and for the right reasons. It is not necessary for voters to completely agree with President Obama to vote for him.

This is where the President has made his biggest mistake. He has a tendency to blame Republicans or politicize his policies if the opposition or the press (such as Fox News) disagrees with him. Instead, he needs to stay above the fray and let the voters sort out the blame game.

People want their President to keep the office dignified and stay above politics of any kind.

Former President George W. Bush defeated Senator John Kerry by a slim margin in 2004, and many trace that margin to the way President Bush handled himself among the electorate. President Bush held his tongue and remained dignified, while Senator Kerry outwardly lambasted him, and seemed to campaign with a chip on his shoulder.

As an example, during the last nationally televised Presidential debate, Senator Kerry could not bring himself to name one positive thing President Bush had done in office during his first four years. Voters saw smallness in that kind of a response.

President Obama can win re-election but he must act fast. He will need to regain the confidence of the voters, and this can only be done by demonstrating he has the country’s best interest at heart. This means caring about the interests of those who support him, as well as those who do not.

If he sincerely acts this way a majority of voters will see the good of conducting himself in this manner.

The President may find this near impossible to do, but by doing so he will win over many more votes, especially those from the political center, and in important swing states such as Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.

In life, the more you give, the more you get.

Same is true in politics.