Is Obama doomed in 2012?

US President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event in Washington, DC, on 13 December 2011 Many have seen Barack Obama as a disappointment

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2012 will be an important year for America. The president, elected amid such optimism and enthusiasm in 2008, could be chucked out of office. The times feel very different. Obama was elected promising hope and change.

Change there may be in 2012, but there was precious little hope around in 2011. The election will be a clash of two Americas and two very different economic visions of what the country should be. Whoever wins the election in November, the result will leave the losers with a sour taste. The US could be a fractious, jittery place by the end of the year.

Vice-President Joe Biden has a saying: "Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." This is the year Mr Obama will indeed be judged against the alternative. Some think this will save him. So a lot hangs on whom the Republicans choose as their candidate for the next president of the United States. More on that from Iowa in the coming week.

The other major factor in whether or not Obama survives in office is the state of the economy. There are glints of light, indications it is getting a little better. But another set-back in Europe could blow the US further off course. And whatever story of slight optimism the statistics tell, most Americans won't be bathed in the glow of a feel-good factor.

It is hard not to look back on the mood in 2008 without shaking your head slightly. There is little doubt President Obama has been a disappointment. He has disappointed many supporters, disappointed those in the middle ground, and even, curiously, disappointed his enemies.

Obama loyalists will point out that no mortal could have lived up to the expectations heaped upon his head, especially when he had been dealt such a poor hand. They argue that he has saved the country from ruin, while accepting no-one gets credit for preventing disasters.

But it is also true that many of those who strongly backed him, and will still back him, think he has not been bold enough and has not confronted those who were always going to tear him down.

Many in the less ideological middle ground have the opposite complaint. They are often disappointed that instead of the dawn of a new politics, there has been a exacerbation of politics as usual.

One of Obama's key appeals was as a healer, a bridge as one biography put it. He preached a future where Americans would work together, reaching across party divides. Instead, the bitterness, distrust, and gridlock have grown worse.

While he talked of changing the way politics was done, we have seen the same old Washington grow in strength and obstructionism, more broken, even less desirous of reaching solutions than before. Maybe that is not his fault. But it is not his triumph either. The obstacles have been piled higher, not blown out of the way.

His enemies were never going to like what he was about, and what he stands for. They would never applaud his economics or his foreign policy. But the best politicians earn a sneaking admiration for their skills even from those who detest what they do with their talents.

Mrs Thatcher did. Tony Blair did. FDR did. (It's probably true Reagan didn't.) But Republicans think Obama has handled the politics badly, and Congress worse. He has been politically clumsy handing both allies and opponents.

So the charge sheet against him is long. But that does not mean he will lose. The odds are about even. So much depends on his opponent, the economy and his strategy. I will be following all three very closely, and you can read about it first here.

A Happy New Year to one and all!

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    KScurmudgeon (32),

    "... So in spite of my forebodings, health and prosperity to all!"

    And to you and yours! Happy New Year!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    For those who have left the US simply because Obama was elected President, please prepare to stay out atleast five more years. He is definitely going to be re-elected. I plan to vote for him for the very first time for all the great things he has done for the US. I think the Republicans are intellectually dishonest with 'American people", and their Presidential candidates are a bunch of losers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Doesn't matter if a republican or democrat is elected, you're going down the same road, just in different lanes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    2012 in Kansas -
    This is the first new year that I do not feel a surge of hope in new beginnings. It is odd, because I personally am full of hope. But for the nation? For the Western world? We seem to be bound up by the processes that brought us this far but which now prevent us from acting in what are clearly our own best interests.

    So in spite of my forebodings, health and prosperity to all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Obama, although not the ideal candidate, will probably be voted back in as president, simply because of the poor quality of the Republican candidates. He has governed like a Republican anyway and stolen their political territory. What has he done for the left of politics? He certainly has done nothing to regulate the cowboys of the financial system who caused the GFC. It could all happen again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    It`s not really Obama potentially being `doomed` in 2012. I feel, regretably, that the US as a whole is in a state of decline in political influence, relevance and financlially as their currency becomes weaker and may loose its place as the global reserve currency. In a globalised ecconomy, voting is irrelevant. It`s like drinikng Coke or Pepsi, no realy difference only the illusion of choice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    When Republicans feel like they have the upper hand, they choose a candidate who is more conservative. When they feel like they will be hard pressed to win, they pick someone more moderate. The thing is, even if enough people are unhappy with Obama that they have an edge, they will probably choose someone too conservative and alienate moderates who would have joined them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Almost ANYTHING is better than Obama. Obama is not capable of leading flies to cow-cookies, although he is leading an entire country into an abyss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I live in Nebraska, and frankly, this is the first time I've heard that anyone was disappointed in Obama. Republicans are disappointed that he won - what he has done in office is pretty much what they expect. He hasn't closed Gitmo, and it took him longer to leave Iraq than he hoped, but he did get heathcare passed (though Republicans are trying hard to repeal it).

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I think Iran is it's own worst enemy and the Arab Spring will take it and Syria down in time. Of course, that's assuming the Arab League's moderators are not corrupt and sell out the protesters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Obama will benefit from the weakness of the GOP candidates. They are a poor showing, but I doubt any changes will come to the fundamental problems in the GOP. The Tea Party have gained a hold in the house and they will not stop wreaking havoc for the people. There is no compromise in their view, only absolute capitulation.

    Even if Obama does win the people will loose out to Corporate Money

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I have read many of Mark Madell's articles,you don't need to be told,the guy is a republican.Put anybody in white house, the American dreams have been soldmmore than 8 years ago.You can't eat your cake and have it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Obama made the mistake of trying to lead by conciliation, but the truth is the GOP was never going to accept him no matter what he did. More experience of Washington might have made him wiser.
    He's also a technocrat. He shares that with lots of other leaders: really, if you expected a free democrat I'm not surprised you're disappointed. The techno-elite rules now. Changing the face won't help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    My last point here is that we should leave Iran alone. Look at the the UK/US hand in recent times (oil exploitation, Mossadeqe, war with Iraq). The current encirclement of the nation by US bases and constant threats, suspicion and damnation over alleged nuclear weapon grade uranium enrichment. The next target of Western `reform`? Hard to say. An oil rich nation? Unquestionably so!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    It is true that Obama and company have been clumsy politically. He is not warm and not the orator that I hoped for. On the other hand he has exercised a deft hand internationally, whatever the Republicans say. He has steered through a perilous time. He works hard and is honest. He tries to steer the center, and I respect him for it. The Republican field is not inspiring. Romney is a liar, purely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    "His insistence on redistributing the wealth rather than increasing the wealth has us on the same path so badly followed by the European Union."

    Apples and oranges.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Out of all the candiates who seem more credible and real, Ron Paul is that person! If a candiadate was not beholden to all the lobbiests, campain financiers and backers, special intererest groups, Israel and was openly gay and/or athiest and spoke the truth that you won`t find on the BBC/CNN etc, would he or she ever be elelcted? Of course not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I think that America is doomed if the republican party gains any more power in any way. Obama isn't the greatest president; frankly I think he's rather weak. But the republicans are all mean bullies that need more regular mental health check-ups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Kevin ( Comment13):

    The invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan were, in my view, about oil gas, nothing more. Further, the `Arab Spring` including the abhhorant intervention in Lybia was all about the same thing and perhaps sp too as we now target Syria. It`s more of a `war on oil and gas reserves` in my view as a national security isssue and a new geopolitic that is playing out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The press will play up the Republicans' disarray until a nominee is chosen but if the Democrats didn't have an incumbent they'd be just as divided right now. Based on what he's done, not what he says he's done, Obama is a failure. His only achievement, "Obamacare", is being parceled out the states for implementation and won't cover everyone so what was the point of "health care reform"?


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