Poll vision

Poll vision

President Obama will not have the advantage of a visionary fighting a cynical, entrenched and compromised establishment when he seeks re-election. He has announced his candidacy early, the earliest any incumbent US president has made his re-election plan officially public. The election is still 18 months away, which is a long time in electoral politics.

The early announcement might give him a head start in the campaign and in fund-raising.
But this may not be important because, being the President and being a good communicator with an efficient campaign machinery, he would not have suffered on both counts even if he were late. A disadvantage is that he will be a candidate and a politician for a long period and it might colour and constrain his conduct and actions as President in the coming months.

Obama has lost a lot of his sheen and he has been unable to keep many of the promises he made during his campaign. The platform of change and hope may not appeal as much as it did last time. Yet he is in a strong position. His ratings are good and have improved since last November when the Republicans made a strong showing in the Congressional elections.

In fact, in most polls Obama as a person has got a much higher rating than his policies. The economy will be the main electoral issue, though there are potent foreign policy issues like Afghanistan and the revolts in the Arab world that may hog the limelight. The US economy is not very badly placed at the moment, having recovered from the 2008 crisis faster than expected, and unemployment has come down to 8.8 per cent.

History too is on Obama’s side. Only two elected US Presidents — Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George Bush Sr in 1992 — have lost their re-election in the last 60 years. The Republicans are yet to get their act together. More than a dozen, including former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, are considering to run for presidency but none has yet announced his candidacy.

The appeal of a Republican shift to further right, the Tea Party movement and the idea of Bushism without Bush is uncertain. It might also help Obama that the Republicans are only trying to assert themselves in opposition to him. But much can change later.

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