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Bernie Goldberg on Obama's Strengths and Weaknesses in 2012 Election

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 31, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Weekdays with Bernie" segment tonight: According to the Rasmussen daily tracking poll, 51 percent of Americans now disapprove of the job President Obama is doing; 48 percent approve. So the president does have a fighting chance in next year's election, obviously.

But what are his strong points and what are his weak points? We presented that question to Bernie Goldberg, who joins us now from Miami. Let's start with the downside. You know, we know about the economy and the jobs and all of that. Aside, where is the president most vulnerable?

BERNIE GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you're right. We do know about all of that, but let me just deal with that quickly anyway. We know about the high unemployment rate. We know about the high gas prices. We know about the very weak housing market, and we know about the fragile recovery. You're absolutely right. The question is, can a president be re-elected with a crummy economy? The good news for Barack Obama is the answer is yes. In 1936, FDR was re-elected, and the economy was a lot worse than it is today. The bad news for the president is that FDR is the only president in the last 75 years to be re-elected with a crummy economy and unemployment over eight percent. That's No. 1 is the economy.

O'REILLY: Wasn't it around eight percent for Reagan when he ran for the second term?

GOLDBERG: Seven -- I think it was 7.2 percent, but it was noticeably coming down.

O'REILLY: Coming down, OK.

GOLDBERG: Yes. OK. The second point doesn't get nearly enough attention, and it's an intangible, which if I have to describe it in one word I'd say it was disappointment. A lot of people who voted for Barack Obama expected and were led to expect something new in politics: a new tone of political discourse in Washington. And I think -- I think they're disappointed, because Barack Obama is not a new kind of politician. In fact, he's an old Chicago politician.

There is one thing that's new and fresh and all that about Barack Obama, and I have to be very careful, Bill, how I say this, but the new and fresh thing is his race. All the other presidents were white. He's black. But that won't be enough in and of itself.

O'REILLY: No, it carries with him about a 13 percent constituency that would probably block -- and you figure that African-Americans would go 85 to 90 percent.

GOLDBERG: And a lot of them -- the last time around -- in the last time around a lot of Americans voted for him, because he -- they wanted to elect the first black president. I'm saying it's not going to be all that new in 2012.

O'REILLY: The gloss is gone and that I think Americans understand that Barack Obama is a politician. There isn't anything new in the administration. Still a divided country. Still ideological wars over spending. All of that. Now, his strengths, the president's strengths are, I think, mainly personal. Correct?

GOLDBERG: Yes. I'll give you two strengths. One of them I'll do very quickly. My conservative friends bear with me. Bin Laden. Even though -- even though George Bush's policies helped bring down bin Laden, the way the game is played, the person in the Oval Office when bin Laden gets a bullet in the head gets the boatload of credit. That's how it's played. Just accept it.

But the second reason, and I ask my conservative friends not to shoot your humble messenger, please. As far as independents are concerned -- and they are the most important group in this upcoming election -- as far as they're concerned, Barack Obama is likeable. They like the way he walks. They like the way he talks. They like the way he dresses. They love the million-dollar smile. And in politics and in the media, likeability is a very important trait. That doesn't mean it's going to be enough to get him re-elected, but don't underestimate the power of likeability.

O'REILLY: Now, I write -- I'm writing a column -- it's not done yet -- but it's going to be out on Thursday about if the Republicans want to defeat President Obama, they have to explain him to the country.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

O'REILLY: Because I don't believe most of the country understands the president and how he is driven by one thing and one thing only, and that is social justice. Above all else, that's what he wants. And in theory that's good, but in practice it's pushing the country over the cliff. So as much as he is personable and sincere, the country is going over the cliff. And if the GOP can't make that case, it's going to lose.

GOLDBERG: Well, I think the case they should make, although I agree with what you just said, I think the case they should make is take what was Obama's strength in 2008 and make it his weakness. Here's what I would tell the GOP. Make President Obama Mr. Yesterday. Mr. Yesterday in 2008 was John McCain. Could you picture a split screen with McCain on one side and Obama on the other side? Obama was the future. McCain was the past. Make Obama Mr. Yesterday. Tell the American people he doesn't have any new ideas. He may have never had a new idea. That -- if you could convince the American people, the independents, that he is not the candidate of the future but the candidate of the past, and as Shelby Steele, the conservative scholar from California put it, tell the American people that we, the Republicans, believe in you, and Barack Obama believes in government.

O'REILLY: Yes, but I think you're going to have to scare the American people a little bit. Bernie, as always, thank you.

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