Will Obama be able to replicate his turnout model of 2008 in 2012? With high unemployment, inflation and gas prices, its very unlikely. His problem, more probably, will be to animate his base and breathe it back to sufficient life to give him any chance at all. Most polls show growing liberal disaffection with Obama, as Libya, Afghanistan and his failure to close Guantanamo saps the enthusiasm he needs on the left.
But Obama has a larger problem in moving to the left. You can’t get re-elected president as an advocate. You need to be a leader. Only Harry Truman managed to get a second term by overtly partisan rhetoric, and he was coming off 20 years of the New Deal coalition. A president who attacks the rich and seeks to divide the country may be able to rely on the base to keep his approval ratings in the low 40s, but he has no way to get re-elected.
Indeed, Obama will lose in 2012 because, by the time the next election comes around, voters will see all around them evidence of his weakness and his incompetence. It is now evident in the escape of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan. It will increasingly be clear as inflation mounts and gas prices continue their upward progression. More and more it will be evident that this former community organizer is not up to the job and has no idea what he is doing.
A positioning on the left may suffice for winning the Democratic nomination or even election to an open seat. But it does not satisfy the national need for leadership, ability, skill and wisdom. Obama cannot be re-elected by running like the candidate of 2008.
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