The iCitizenFroum question of the day stated: “Barack Obama announces his re-election campaign. Are you ready for the 2012 presidential election to begin?”
We might not be, but President Barack Obama will be.
His — by most standards, quiet — kickoff of his re-election campaign was politically astute and well timed.
As a horseplayer, I look to the Daily Racing form when I try to pick winners. I think Obama’s chances look pretty good. The presidential racing form offers some insight.
Only 8 presidents who sought re-election got beat versus 16 elected to a second term:
- John Adams: He lost to Thomas Jefferson, primarily because his party was severely divided. Certainly the Democratic Party comes to 2012 with its cracks, but I do not see this as a problem for Obama.
- John Quincy Adams: Adams defeated President Andrew Jackson the first time around but failed to get a majority of the popular vote. He was “elected” by the House of Representatives. He lost to Jackson the second time around. He ran a weak campaign and refused to play dirty politics. McCain will not be back, and I don’t think Sarah Palin will, either. Out-campaigning Obama is a tall order on his worst day.
- Martin Van Buren: The first “American” president faced a double dose of trouble, which led to his re-election demise — an economic depression and severe criticism of his foreign policy. This scenario might apply to Obama. But the economic cycle, while sensitive, is getting better. The foreign policy flops might prove more problematic.
- Benjamin Harrison: Tariff issues and the emergence of the Populist Party candidate James Weaver drained votes for Harrison from traditional Republicans. His wife took ill in October, and he did not actively campaign up to the election. Third-party candidates in 2012 more likely will drain votes from a Republican candidate. And trade issues will not be high on the radar of voters. Republicans have failed to make that an issue for voters for a long time.
- William Howard Taft: Taft gets credit for being a good president but a lousy politician. Few doubt Obama’s political skills. And when the Republicans re-nominated Taft, Theodore Roosevelt bolted the party to lead the Progressives, and in doing so guaranteed the election of Woodrow Wilson. (See Benjamin Harrison regarding third-party candidates.)
- Herbert Hoover: The Great Depression.
- Jimmy Carter: A sour economy and perceived weak foreign policy helped submarine Carter. But having to run against President Ronald Reagan really hurt. The Republicans have no Reagans in the wings.
- George H.W. Bush: A sour economy certainly hurt. But running against Bill Clinton hurt more. Clinton might be the Democratic version of Reagan.
So, it seems a few threads emerge: economic issues, third-party candidates and awe-inspiring opponents led to re-election failures.
The second and third do not seem likely to hurt Obama.
I think it will be all about the economy.
What do you think?