Okay, let me just come out and say it. I do not think President Barack Obama will lose the presidential election come 2012. There I said it, but it wasn’t easy. Things are not looking all that well for my Barack; he is losing touch with his Democratic base — leading one of my colleagues to question if he has lost his mojo — and he is falling out of grace with independents. Those independents are mighty important come election season.
The president is fully aware of this fact. While angering his base is not his intention, I can bet you winning the election is, and he will not win if he does not cater to the moderates and independents. Obama’s rather moderate stances on issues like same-sex marriage, Libya, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay may have upset the staunch liberals, but ultimately saved face with many independents. In the end, how the independents turn out for Obama in 2012 will rest on the status of our economy.
Obama’s perceived mishandling of the economy has led many independents and moderates to stray from the president. One latest poll indicates that 43% of independents plan to vote against the president and 29% say that they will vote for him, leaving 28% undecided.
While these numbers do not bode well, independent voters usually ebb and flow with the tide of the election, keeping many pundits guessing until the very end.
In 2008, Obama was able to win the election due in large part to winning the independent voters. It was not until the very end of the campaign that Obama got the edge in the eyes of the independents; in fact, polls as late as September showed McCain with the lead among independent voters. Obama’s campaign rhetoric — driven by a sense of hope and belief in the coming of a brighter day — ultimately pulled in majorities of moderates and independents, giving him the slight advantage needed to beat John McCain.
The lack of a strong GOP candidate is likely to help Obama in the polls; the only poll in which he is trailing is against a generic Republican. His closest competitor, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, trails Obama (46%-42% in one poll). Leading GOP candidates all have a weakness that will likely cost them in the polls: former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and Romney are likely to suffer at the hands of Americans afraid to vote for a Mormon (roughly 22%). Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has pigeonholed herself into being a Tea Party candidate, which is going to be an issue with independent and moderate voters.
A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Republican mastermind Karl Rove explains reasons why Obama will likely lose this election, not how Republicans are going to win. Republicans are hoping for Obama to continue shooting himself in the foot over the next 15 months so they can slide into the White House seemingly under the radar. Though Rove does not say it blatantly, he is hinting at it: This race is Obama’s to lose.
In the end, independent voters are more than likely going to turn out in favor of Obama because many Americans believe he will have made positive strides fixing the economy. Independents’ tendency to follow what transpires on hot button issues will likely swing their vote in Obama’s favor if he is able to make some headway on the country’s economic turmoil. With no legitimate candidate rising from the GOP, independent voters will have to make the choice to either vote for Obama or not vote at all.
I see them ultimately coming to the polls because of the vital stage we are at. The country is locked in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we are involved in three wars, and our younger generation is struggling to get out of the starting blocks. Though every election is important, 2012 will do much to determine where we will end up as a country in the next decade or two.
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