I'm beginning to think that President Barack Obama is not going to win re-election in 2012. At best, he is going to "not lose."
There's a difference between winning a contest and not losing it. While both scenarios share the same temporal features, declared winners demonstrates their superiority, vanquish their opponent and give off the appearance of success. The "non-loser" is just the last man standing, maybe because their opponent wasn't up to the challenge or he caught a lucky break.
This occurred to me as I watched Obama in his big, black, fortified bus traverse the heartland with his jobs message. The president is trying to get across that he understands the American people's frustration with the stagnant economy and high unemployment. He promises a new jobs plan, next month, even though it's likely DOA thanks to House Republicans. Obama seems to have lost his ability to inspire.
Sequestering yourself in an ominous-looking bus convoy doesn't say, "The public's interests are my interests," but rather it communicates, "I can't hear you." More like a pop star on his entourage bus, Obama would do better making his way on Air Force One. At least then people would think, "Here comes the president," not, "Here comes Beyonce."
Obama has a record to run on and proudly so, even if the economy has not rebounded to anyone's liking. Obama should win re-election not just because "President Rick Perry" would remake America as Texas, where the number of workers earning federal minimum wage or less is greater than those in California, Florida and Illinois combined, health insurance is but a dream to one in four residents and public schools survive on table scraps.
Obama's record of accomplishment is the anti-Perry model of government.
The president saved the Detroit car industry, secured health reforms that will bring health insurance to nearly everyone, appointed two Supreme Court justices who stand with people over corporations, put constraints on a reckless Wall Street, brought consumer-friendly regulators like Elizabeth Warren into government, got Congress to repeal the discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" law, extended a strong if temporary safety net for unemployed Americans, and used a stimulus package to stop the hemorrhaging of American jobs and avoid a Depression.
All this was done while battling the headwinds of stiff Republican resistance.
So far, Obama has also kept Americans safe from another terrorist attack (dispatching Osama bin Laden in the process), although another attack could occur at any time. It is impossible to make us 100 percent safe.
As Obama formulates a narrative for his re-election he needs to sear into the consciousness of Americans what the nation looked like when he took office.
On Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration day, we were in the throes of the biggest one-month loss in jobs in decades, with a plunge of 779,000. The U.S. economy shed an average of 753,000 jobs in each of the first three months of that year. Before Obama had time to properly arrange his clothes in his White House closet, he was facing an economy in recession that had shed more than 5 million jobs, with no end in sight.
Then there was the other present that George W. Bush left behind for the new resident: a whopping budget deficit. According to PolitiFact, two weeks before Obama took office, the Congressional Budget Office determined that the projected deficit for fiscal year 2009 was $1.2 trillion.
Obama has to tell the real story of the $787 billion economic stimulus package. The public thinks it failed and is a driver of our national debt problems, neither of which are true. Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution, was one of many in his field who credited the stimulus package with rolling us back from economic disaster, giving it an overall grade of B-plus. If anything, it didn't go far enough.
Despite the ongoing gloom, Obama saved the day. There is no reason for him to squeak out a 2012 victory from people who are largely voting against his opponent. He deserves to win, not just "not lose."
But he has to start making that case.