While the country digests yesterday’s primaries, the White House political machine is undoubtedly working overtime on a more distant challenge – how to get President Obama reelected in 2012.
The move will aim to bolster Obama’s standing and provide some excitement among core Democrats – something that Biden fails to provide. Hillary will agree, because just four years later she will be superbly positioned to run for president – ever the rainbow on her personal horizon.
At present, her polls are high, with 58% of voters viewing her at least somewhat favorably.
Wistful Dems who wonder these days what could have been will tout her hard work and pragmatic diplomacy as she chases one impossible Obama pipe dream after another to all corners of the globe.
Certain wishful Dems are hoping she will challenge Obama in a primary. I don’t think so. As Ted Kennedy found when he tried to pick off Jimmy Carter in 1980, even an unpopular incumbent is still an incumbent.
If the White House political team brings Clinton on board over the next year, they can remove whatever threat exists from that quarter. Meanwhile, Hillary can bide her time and husband her resources, eventually running against Obama’s legacy.
She will have better answers on health care, a subject she has studiously avoided discussing, and could adopt her husband’s centrist approach to trade and taxes to win over independents.
Though she will be 69 years old in 2016, she is healthy and will run on experience. John McCain was 72 on election day; his age became an issue only after carefully orchestrated pieces on melanoma-related deaths in The New York Times raised concerns, and because he chose a running mate considered by many too inexperienced to step in if necessary. (Those worried folks voted instead for a candidate with no management background and a gossamer-thin resume, but that’s another story.)
The White House political apparatchiks are not stupid; they know the president is in trouble. The recent poll, showing that Americans are more disgusted with Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil disaster than they were by Bush’s management of the Katrina aftermath, says it all.
No sane person can possibly blame the president for a series of cataclysmically poor decisions that resulted in the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon. Instead, those mad that he can’t protect brown pelicans are fed up with a whole host of issues: ongoing job losses, political chicanery in the White House, rising federal debts, cuts in local public services and above all, perhaps, profound disappointment that this president ends up sounding and looking no better and no worse than those who have gone before him.
Between now and the next presidential election, the job picture is unlikely to get much brighter. States are cutting workers to balance their budgets, while new-found fiscal discipline among those facing reelection has put a lid on what Congress will spend to counter local layoffs.
Small businesses are still struggling to find credit, and are nervous about the impact of the new health care bill.
Corporate hiring is extremely slow, in part because industry is still wary of the sluggish recovery, and of our president.
The repeated assaults on banks, insurers, oil companies, coal miners and anyone succeeding in making money has cast a pall over the private sector. The well documented ramping up of agencies charged with investigating and regulating business has managements distracted.
Even if the recovery continues to putter along, job creation is likely to disappoint. Also, the debt and deficit numbers will not improve. By November 2012, voters will be looking for answers.
Obama will certainly run again, but his ticket will need a change-up. Joe Biden brought the aura of experience to the 2008 ticket. His subsequent series of gaffes has since undermined his stature. In any case his appeal was never very broad. He was a low-risk non-combatant who fit Hollywood’s image of a senior statesman.
Rahm Emanuel will call Biden in for a nice chat and point out the many advantages of retirement—maybe even offer him an unpaid job with some U.S. agency.
To excite those liberals disappointed that Obama has not tackled many of their core concerns—chiefly cap-and-trade and immigration – the president will need a fresh start. Hillary Clinton could provide the juice he needs.
Liz Peek is a financial, political and social commentator. For more, visit LizPeek.com.
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