The Inevitable Barack Obama Comeback

Reports of Barack Obama's political death are greatly exaggerated and wildly premature.

In today’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer warns his fellow Republicans not to start picking out West Wing offices just yet:

In the political marketplace, there’s now a run on Obama shares. The left is disappointed with the president. Independents are abandoning him in droves. And the right is already dancing on his political grave, salivating about November when, his own press secretary admitted Sunday, Democrats might lose the House.

I have a warning for Republicans: Don’t underestimate Barack Obama.

Consider what he has already achieved. Obamacare alone makes his presidency historic. It has irrevocably changed one-sixth of the economy, put the country inexorably on the road to national health care and, as acknowledged by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus but few others, begun one of the most massive wealth redistributions in U.S. history.

Second, there is major financial reform, which passed Congress on Thursday. Economists argue whether it will prevent meltdowns and bailouts as promised. But there is no argument that it will give the government unprecedented power in the financial marketplace. Its 2,300 pages will create at least 243 new regulations that will affect not only, as many assume, the big banks but just about everyone, including, as noted in one summary (the Wall Street Journal), “storefront check cashiers, city governments, small manufacturers, home buyers and credit bureaus.”

Third is the near $1 trillion stimulus, the largest spending bill in U.S. history. And that’s not even counting nationalizing the student loan program, regulating carbon emissions by Environmental Protection Agency fiat, and still-fitful attempts to pass cap-and-trade through Congress.

But Obama’s biggest accomplishment, Krauthammer argues, could be putting the final nail in the coffin of Reaganonmics:

The net effect of 18 months of Obamaism will be to undo much of Reaganism. Both presidencies were highly ideological, grandly ambitious and often underappreciated by their own side. In his early years, Reagan was bitterly attacked from his right. (Typical Washington Post headline: “For Reagan and the New Right, the Honeymoon Is Over” — and that was six months into his presidency!) Obama is attacked from his left for insufficient zeal on gay rights, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo — the list is long. The critics don’t understand the big picture. Obama’s transformational agenda is a play in two acts.

Act One is over. The stimulus, Obamacare, financial reform have exhausted his first-term mandate. It will bear no more heavy lifting. And the Democrats will pay the price for ideological overreaching by losing one or both houses, whether de facto or de jure. The rest of the first term will be spent consolidating these gains (writing the regulations, for example) and preparing for Act Two.

The next burst of ideological energy — massive regulation of the energy economy, federalizing higher education and “comprehensive” immigration reform (i.e., amnesty) — will require a second mandate, meaning reelection in 2012.

Of course, Reagan’s Presidency, and those of Bill Clinton and George Bush, remind us that Second Terms are rarely as successful as as First Terms when it comes to accomplishing an agenda, partly because of the lame duck factor and partly because of sheer inertia. If Obama is re-elected in 2012, he is unlikely to have anything close to the Congressional majorities he has right now and yet, even with those, his agenda has been largely controlled by Congress. I’m not sure that things would be any better from 2013 on word.

Krauthammer’s broader point, however, is correct. Republicans would be foolish to count Obama out now, or even after the 2010 landslide they all seem to think is just around the corner. As Bill Clinton taught us, it is possible for a President to lose Congress and retain the Presidency two years later and, if we somehow do manage to have a strong economy by election time or, if the Republicans manage to nominate the one candidate who would guarantee Obama’s re-election, then Barack Obama will be the comeback kid and Republicans will be left wondering what went wrong this time.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    This is all “inside the beltway” fantasy. If the economy still sucks in 2011(and it probably will)…Obama is toast….no matter who is running against him.
    I think he won’t even run if there is any chance he will lose…his ego won’t risk it. The past is not neccessarily precedence….only to pessimists.

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    “If Obama is re-elected in 2012, he is unlikely to have anything close to the Congressional majorities he has right now and yet, even with those, his agenda has been largely controlled by Congress.”

    Quite impossible to predict. What’s ignored in all these polls (which in truth are rather suspect to start with) is that there may be disenchantment with Obama and the Democrats but there’s rather more with Republicans who are basically engaged in something of an internal struggle over the soul of the party. If they don’t win by a landslide in November civil war could well break out. Basically Krauthammer is taking a sensible long view. Obama has put in place huge changes that are gradually going to become more apparent over the next two years and are never going to be substantially reversed. As of now there’s no doubt in mind he will get a second term and even if they re ran the 2008 election today with the same candidates he’d probably win by a bigger margin.

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    Michael says:
    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 16:50
    “This is all “inside the beltway” fantasy. ”

    Look in the mirror if you want to see a fantasist. Krauthammer isn’t exactly favorably disposed to Obama so when he’s telling it how it is he’s worth listening to.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    “This is all “inside the beltway” fantasy. If the economy still sucks in 2011(and it probably will)…Obama is toast….no matter who is running against him.”

    Yes, economic factors are usually the biggest factors in a campaign, but the idea that if the economy sucks, Obama will lose, is a false idea. There is more to winning a Presidency (or any campaign) than one single factor. Really, in many campaigns the issues don’t really matter at all–just how well the campaign is run. (This is an idea that many don’t like, but talk to any good campaign manager and they will tell you its true).

    If the economy sucks in 2011 (and ‘sucks’ is relative of course), it will hurt Obama, but it won’t doom him. If the Republicans can’t get their party in order, and can’t put together a good campaign on the ground (see: Mcain v. Obama, 2008), Romney, Palin, or any other candidate has a very small chance of winning.

  5. floyd says:

    “I have a warning for Republicans: Don’t underestimate Barack Obama.”

    Barack Obama having no more talent than the average “talking head”, the quote above would more appropriately read….

    I have a warning for Republicans: Don’t underestimate David Axelrod.

    At any rate, now is not the time to be complacent,
    “evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
    Unfortunately, the GOP may not have the will ,vision, or leadership to provide real “hope” for beneficial “change” that will counter the devisive, racist, and misleading campaign offered by the DNC,
    Americans of all stripes must awaken to a revival of common sense or they will surely suffer the consequences.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    “If the economy sucks in 2011”

    This would presume a five year recession. Not likely is it? Unless Krugman is correct of course and we’re about to enter a Japanese style deflationary period. But I don’t see it. Quite the contrary in fact. There may not be enough “recovery” to save the Democrats this fall but by 2012 it’s going to be a different story and of course if the Republicans do get their landslide they’ll either share the blame for malaise or much more likely embark on two years of manic behavior that will discredit them as it did in 2006.

  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    floyd says:
    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 17:18
    “Barack Obama having no more talent than the average “talking head”, ”

    Absence of talent. That’s why he’s come from nowhere, beat Hillary Clinton and become president. Yeah he’s loser. Honestly, you guys have your heads so far up your backsides you can see your tonsils. This guy is never going to be beaten unless Republicans get out of fantasy land.

  8. Juneau: says:

    Was Carter a two term President? Neither will be Obama, as he is worse than Carter. Even in the eyes of Carters former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinki.

    “Hey! Excuse me Captain….. but that’s a pretty big piece of ice we’re headed towards. Don’t you think we ought to change course?

  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Was Carter a two term President? Neither will be Obama, as he is worse than Carter. Even in the eyes of Carters former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinki.”

    you don’t think Zbig has a horse in this race? As one of themost conservative commentators in the American media is telling you he’s shifted the ball more than any Democratic president other than FDR and Johnson. This is not chopped liver.

  10. Herb says:

    “Absence of talent. That’s why he’s come from nowhere, beat Hillary Clinton and become president.”

    I gotta say, one of the main things that endears me to Obama to this day is that he beat Hillary. None of the Republicans could have. We were going to get a Democrat in 08 no matter what, and well…it could have been worse.

  11. Herb says:

    PS. Krauthammer is slippery:

    “Third is the near $1 trillion stimulus, the largest spending bill in U.S. history.”

    Since a third of that was tax cuts, does Krauthammer now consider cutting taxes as “spending?” Nah…he knows what he’s doing.

  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    Herb says:
    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 18:17
    “I gotta say, one of the main things that endears me to Obama to this day is that he beat Hillary.”

    Don’t worry about it. She’ll be running in 2016. And I’m not kidding.

  13. Cshpy says:

    WHAT COMEBACK???
    ….Mandatory healthcare is disastrous to low income people who make too much for state aid and not enough to pay premiums. On top of current debt, they’ll end up paying fines for not having insurance. One way is getting robbed of a tax refund that could be used to pay another bill. Not to mention screwing the small business owner! AND more!
    …..The underlying clauses of this financial reform bill has the big bank execs throwing big parties this weekend – laughing all the way to themselves!
    ……As far as a trillion dollar stimulus; those really in need of it, who are facing foreclosure, vehicle reposession, etc will probably never see a dime of it! Just like the bank bailouts – they’re gambling all that money, decieving the public into thinking its being paid back, and they won’t even give a small business a loan to put people to work with!
    …..His idea of supporting the people in the Gulf is, instead of setting an example by spending a vacation weekend down there, spending his vacations in Chicago, western NC, and Maine!
    ….Immigration policy?….Oh yeah….allowing drug cartels from Mexico armed with automatic weapons and God knows what else, to basically OWN 3500 acres of what was US federal property to have their own private war on! That, with a gateway right down the middle of it for the passage of illegal immigrants! The answer?…..put signs up warning US citizens to stay off their own land because it’s too dangerous to be there!!! GREAT POLICY!
    …If this is a comeback, I’d hate to see what the opposite would be!!!!
    …..

  14. An Interested Party says:

    Floyd’s tired argument sounds similar to one used by many of Bush’s critics in the past–that Rove was the real power behind the throne, “Bush’s Brain”, etc…looks like dear floyd has already fallen into the trap that Krauthammer warns Republicans against…also, speaking of tired arguments, I see that Juneau is passing along the sad “Obama is Carter” meme…if he wins a second term, who will he be compared to then? Woodrow Wilson? Flip back through history…I’m sure you will find some other Democratic president from the past that you don’t like who you will be able to compare him to…

  15. floyd says:

    Joe;
    David Axelrod…
    That’s why he’s come from nowhere!

  16. ponce says:

    Don’t call it a comeback
    I been here for years
    Rockin my peers and puttin suckas in fear
    Makin the tears rain down like a MON-soon
    Listen to the bass go BOOM
    Explosion, overpowerin
    Over the competition, I’m towerin
    Wreckin shop, when I drop these lyrics that’ll make you call the cops
    Don’t you dare stare, you betta move
    Don’t ever compare
    Me to the rest that’ll all get sliced and diced
    Competition’s payin the price

    I’m gonna knock you out
    Mama said knock you out

  17. floyd says:

    Aip;
    Caution, arrogance is rarely seen subjectively, and sarcasm often misread…
    Thanks for the complement! [lol]

  18. An Interested Party says:

    “Thanks for the complement!”

    Talk about arrogance, sarcasm, and misreading…

  19. Joe says:

    No matter what Obama accomplishes, he’s bound to make a lot of people hate him, just as most people are unhappy with their bosses and think they could do a much better job in that position. This happens for nearly every president, doesn’t it?

  20. Juneau: says:

    What’s ignored in all these polls…..is that there may be disenchantment with Obama and the Democrats but there’s rather more with Republicans.

    You should check the generic ballot polling a bit more often Republicans have been ahead of Democrats for quite awhile now. Your statement flies in the face of the consistent polling data which shows that the general public looks more favorably on the GOP than the democrats when it comes to voting preference.

    November is going to be an unmitigated disaster for Dems.

  21. ponce says:

    “This happens for nearly every president, doesn’t it?”

    Three of the last four presidents were re-elected.

    Obama will be, too.

    The only question for 2012: Which Republican will be playing Bob Dole?

  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    floyd says:
    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 20:05
    Joe;
    David Axelrod…
    That’s why he’s come from nowhere!

    floyd, who hired Axelrod and Plouffe?

  23. Brummagem Joe says:

    Juneau: says:
    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 22:08
    “You should check the generic ballot polling a bit more often ”

    You should check that WAPO poll from a couple of days ago.

  24. Brummagem Joe says:

    Juneau: says:
    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 22:08
    “You should check the generic ballot polling a bit more often

    “Again, the Post poll. Forty-three percent of those tested said that they had either a “great deal” or a “good amount” of confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country while 32 percent said the same of Democrats in Congress and just 26 percent said it of Republicans in Congress.”

    Not that I think these summer dog day polls have much significance

  25. anjin-san says:

    If I remember correctly, there was a Time Magazine cover story on Bill Clinton “The incredible shrinking President” at about this point in his first term. Did not seem to hurt him much in ’96. If, in fact, Obama has hit some sort of bottom (something I do not conceed), now is a pretty good time to do it.

  26. floyd says:

    Joe;
    You’ve never been to Illinois have you?

    Aip;
    I didn’t think you would get it… But I got A good laugh anyway, Thanks again!

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Yes, indeed…you seem quite capable of amusing yourself…no thanks needed, as I have nothing to do wih that…

  28. Brummagem Joe says:

    floyd says:
    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 15:56
    Joe;
    “You’ve never been to Illinois have you?”

    Many times. Managed a factory there.