"Civil War in the Ivory Coast," "Unclear Results in Libyan Intervention," "UN Officials Killed in Afghanistan Amid Outrage Over Burning Of Koran by Florida Preacher," "Nuclear Contamination Not Yet Under Control in Japan". These are just some of the headlines summarizing foreign events recently, not even mentioning unrest in Yemen or Syria.
Amid the stark foreign headlines, Americans woke up to discover that President Obama had sent out a short Internet video announcing his intention to be a candidate for the presidency in 2012. 19 months before the actual election, the Obama campaign has officially begun with the video showing a diverse group of supporters explaining the reasons for their backing. "It Begins With US" does not show the President himself, but directs viewers to the site of the new campaign.
There is no surprise that Barack Obama will be running for re-election. The only surprise might be the timing of the announcement. With all the turmoil internationally and the White House playing catch- up to the evolving events, why make the announcement now?
The simple answer, I believe, is in the question. Because events are evolving rapidly, the incumbent has a tremendous advantage. Why vote for a newcomer who is not familiar with the major events? Stability is always a powerful argument in a time of crisis.
At the moment, Barack Obama has several advantages in addition to stability. Unemployment has dipped under 9% and the economy has seen job growth for more than one year. His approval ratings are just over 50 percent in most polls. Health care reform has been passed; limits have been put on banks.
Progressives will argue about all of the above. Guantanamo Bay prison has not been closed. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not been stopped. The deficit problem has not been solved; politics has not fundamentally changed in Washington.
The arguments will go on and on up until the election. Perhaps the biggest advantage President Obama has right now is that the Republican Party is divided without a major viable candidate. Many independents are saying that they are not as enthusiastic as they were for Obama in 2008, but that for the moment there is no viable alternative.
Obama's strength is the opposition's weakness. And, we should add, campaign financing is beginning as well. In the last campaign, Obama raised over $700 million, a record. This time, people are talking about the first $1 billion campaign. Why start now? Perhaps, to raise that kind of money requires a good deal of time.
April 5, 2011