Obama in 2012?
With the US presidential elections only four months away (Nov 6), and the Democrats and Republicans having already selected their presumptive candidates (incumbent President Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney respectively) maybe it is time to look at the prospects of Obama with whom many Guyanese have an emotional nexus. We present a Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis on his chances.
Obama still possesses a great number of strengths. He was able to halt the free-fall of the US economy under Bush and even created a few months of increased employment. He is the incumbent – generally a strength with the power to set upcoming agenda – and with four years to overcome his ‘strangeness factor’.
While he might have disappointed the hard left, he has stuck to progressive policies in education, healthcare, taxes, infrastructure, energy, women’s rights etc that will attract a great deal of moderate voters.
He is still a very likeable personality and should be able to project a strong charismatic campaign character. That he was able to locate and eliminate Osama bin Laden will help. With clips showing him taking a personal role, he should be able to counter Republican strengths on national security. He has been able to avoid divisive issues framed by his opponents – even on the healthcare issue that was dubbed ‘socialist”.
Most importantly in US politics, he has a large war chest for a long campaign. This is backed up by a strong grassroots network and with solid support from women and minorities.
Obama’s major weakness will be the persistent moribund economy and high unemployment rates. His ‘otherness’ is still an issue and Republicans will exploit this factor. He has lost overall support among whites, middle class and college students overall. Much of his loss of support comes from the miserable performance of his PR team. They have a superior product that they just cannot market.
He has been unable to control either the domestic or global economic outcomes in a significant way. He has been more reactive than pro-active and this is related to his last weakness: that he lacks a ‘fighting’ spirit’. Ironically his ethnicity plays a part in this as he overcompensates to appear patient and ‘dignified”, while Americans want a bit of a John Wayne in their leaders.
The incumbent’s main opportunity will be to define Romney but here, his PR teams will have to raise their performance. He can paint Romney – already out of tough with the average voter – as wishy-washy and opportunistic – willing to say anything to be elected.
With net worth of over US$250 million, Romney can be branded as the archetypical Wall Street one percenter. His avoidance of taxes by secreting much of his money in offshore accounts will not earn him any points with the beleaguered middle-class.
The major threat is something that Obama has almost no control over: the fall-out from the EU crisis. Many US Banks including JPMorgan Chase are highly exposed across the pond and repercussions will be felt in the US economy. Another threat is that Israeli leader Netanyahu, would prefer to see a Republican in the White House, and might take some precipitate action in the Mid East that might force Obama’s hand. The Jewish lobby might then support Romney.
Finally, in American politics, there is always the threat of a scandal or two breaking out – either manufactured or real.
In the end there is no question that this election will be very difficult for Obama to win. The main problem is internal: can he get his PR machinery to raise their standards and capture the high ground while simultaneously defining Romney? Obama seems incapable of making the necessary tough decisions.
Unfortunately, in the US it’s not necessarily the best man who will win – but the best man as defined by the media.
Objectively, Obama should be a shoe-in since as a progressive he is in the mainstream of the traditional American voter preference scale. He and his team will have to get their act together fast.