President Barack Obama’s re-election bid announcement was pro forma. There was never any doubt whether he’d run again, and if the GOP has anything to do with it, the odds are looking better every day that he’ll win in a walk away. It didn’t start out that way, though. The first year of his White House tenure, things looked shaky for re-election.
There was double digit unemployment, home foreclosures soared, the GOP scored wins in key governor and senate races, the war without end in Afghanistan raged at a staggering cost. There were hordes of livid, screaming Tea Party activists tromping around the Capitol. There were defections of key administration staffers rising. And the carping, hectoring and even fury from liberal Democrats and progressives of Obama at what they considered his timid, cautious, conciliatory, even backslide on issues and policies rose to a higher pitch with each passing day. The president’s precipitous slide in the polls and popularity came crashing to a head with “shellacking” the Democrats took in the November mid-terms.
But in the months since then the GOP came to the rescue. In rapid succession it has ticked off millions with its bellicose threat to meat-ax spending on every vital government program around and — if it didn’t get the cuts it wanted — shut down government. Its parade of would be presidential candidates sounded more bizarre, contradictory and downright goofy on everything from spouting the phony Birther line about Obama’s birth certificate to flailing away with inconsistent and confused statements about Libya.
Polls have consistently shown that even while Obama’s popularity has edged down mostly over the handling of the economy, more Americans than not said they were disenchanted, even fed up with the Tea Party’s antics, bluster and intransigence. Even if House Republicans pull back from making the colossally stupid mistake of padlocking government for a few days to get the budget slashes they want (and the likelihood is they will), they have gone even further to imprint in the public mind that the GOP is the party of pig-headed, nay-saying, whining, intransigence.
Then there’s Sarah Palin. She has gone from at best a political curiosity to a downright embarrassment. Her popularity poll numbers, never anything to write home about even in her best days, are hurtling toward single digit numbers. Even she’s had enough sense to stop hinting that she’s a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination. But Palin almost rises to the stature of Lincoln and FDR when compared to the clownishness of real estate mogul Donald Trump, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann and African American businessman Herman Cain. All have made themselves, and worse the GOP, into even bigger laughingstocks by conning the press and the party into thinking that they have a clue about politics and the presidency.
Trump especially has worked the con to a tee with his high profile media appearances slamming Obama’s birth certificate and offering a few canned soup bromides about his plan for America. Bachmann has gone to prodigious lengths to try and top herself in seeing how many Tea Party and media grabbing odd ball quips she can make about whatever comes in her head. Cain, just by being black, and getting some paper cheers from Tea Party leaders, has managed to keep himself in the media limelight for a minute. The three of them send chills up the spine of GOP mainstream leaders at the sight of them gabbing away on talk shows while wearing the tag of the GOP.
Meanwhile, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have been repeatedly mentioned as GOP presidential challengers. Not one of them has a prayer. In major polls since January, none has cracked the 40 percent mark against Obama. Two real possibilities to make a race against Obama competitive: Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are playing it cautious, and close to the vest. They are watching the political winds, hoping for a fatal mistake by Obama, and banking that their political credibility and name identification will be enough to propel them to the GOP nomination. That won’t be nearly enough to beat a sitting president.
In the past century, only one sitting Democratic president has lost his re-election bid. That was Jimmy Carter in 1980. And even the one Democratic president who suffered a massive defection and split within his party, a troubled economy and voter fatigue at the Democrats for holding office for a seeming eternity, he still steam-rolled his Republican challenger. That Democrat was, of course, Harry Truman in 1948. Overall, only nine sitting presidents in American political history have been defeated.
Just think of the GOP names that immediately come to mind when the 2012 presidential campaign is mentioned: Trump, Cain, Palin, Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Pawlenty and then think this. The GOP makes Obama’s reelection easier by the day.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.