Americans reluctant to oust sitting president

In a neck and neck election that is anybody's game, Barack Obama has an advantage: he is the US president, and Americans are historically reluctant to kick out their commander-in-chief.

Voters will rarely take a chance on a challenger, and persuading them to do so has been a hard-fought battle for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who continues to fight hard against a president who remains popular in spite of the floundering US economy, reported Xinhua.

Indeed, voters have booted out only three sitting presidents since the end of WWII -- Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Moreover, two had no real support base. Ford, who had been vice president under president Richard Nixon and stepped in after his boss resigned, never built up a support base because he never had to campaign for the presidency. Some historians believe he would never have been nominated on his own.

Former vice president George H.W. Bush relied on the supporters of his former boss, president Ronald Reagan, and he had the misfortune of facing the charismatic Bill Clinton at a historical turning point when the Cold War had just ended and the tech-sector had ushered in a new economy. Amid an economic downturn, many Americans perceived a need for new blood in the White House after 12 years of the Reagan dynasty.

That leaves Carter, the only one of the three with a real support base. While he was ultimately unseated, it was by Ronald Reagan, perhaps the most charismatic post-war president.

Obama is no Jimmy Carter, neither is he a George H.W. Bush or Gerald Ford. The president was never elected on the coat tails of a former boss, is a charismatic and inspirational orator and remains likeable in the eyes of many Americans. Beating him is no easy task.

But there are chinks in his armour, the most obvious being the weak economy and a high unemployment rate that stayed above 8 percent for nearly four years until September, when it dipped to 7.8 percent but edged back up to 7.9 percent Friday. Many Americans do not buy his "hang in there" approach, as he has urged patience in the face of an economy that does not seem to be getting better.

Obama's supporters will not come out to vote for him in droves like they did in 2008, analysts predict. Many who voted for hope and change in 2008 are disappointed in the president's perceived partisanship and negative campaigning, and others see no change in the flagging economy despite myriad promises from the White House. Millions are jobless and millions more are working part-time jobs and struggle to make ends meet.

In an era of hyper-partisanship in Congress -- something most Americans dislike -- many who voted for Obama in 2008 resent how he rammed his health care overhaul through Congress, and many now favour Romney.

While Romney has flip flopped on some issues, some Americans view his change of heart on various issues as moving to the center in a pragmatic move.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said incumbents tend not to lose, and if they do, it has more to do with the incumbent than anything else.

John Fortier, director of the democracy project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, however, said those hurdles that stand in the way of unseating an incumbent have already passed, adding that the most difficult time for a challenger is when he is just recovering from the primaries while the incumbent is able to use that time for fundraising.

Still, polls have Obama ahead in the electoral college 201 to 191, according to Real Clear Politics.

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