2012 Won’t Be a Replay

by Dave Schuler on April 13, 2012

Over at The New Republic William Galston has a solid post that repeats some of the observations I’ve been making around here on why the 2012 presidential campaign won’t be a rerun of the 2008. He opens:

With the general election now underway, it’s tempting to assume that President Obama has a built-in advantage by having at his disposal a campaign operation that earned universal plaudits in 2008. But as Team Obama itself already knows—or, if not, will soon come to realize—the 2012 contest will be very different from the president’s triumphant march to the White House four years ago. The key question will be how the old campaign staff responds to the new electoral landscape. Here are seven realities that Team Obama will have to adjust to.

The seven reasons he outlines are:

  • 2012 will at least in part be a referendum on the last four years of the Obama Administration.
  • Rather than promising bipartisanship he’ll need to blame Republicans for Washington’s polarization without alienating moderates and independents.
  • “Yes, we can” is probably out as a campaign slogan.
  • Young voters are unlikely to turn out in the numbers they did in 2008.
  • The president is unlikely to receive as much business support as he did in 2008.
  • It will be difficult to simultaneously rally his base and court moderates and independents and he can’t win without both groups.
  • The president is at the mercy of whatever happens with an economy over which he has little control

I continue to think it likely that President Obama will be re-elected for reasons that include inertia—Americans tend to re-elect their presidents. But I think it will be a squeaker.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy April 13, 2012 at 7:26 am

I’d doubt we’ll hear “change we can believe in” much either. I wonder if Kerry’s “I was for it before I was against it” will be resurrected to use against Romney.

Frankly, I don’t know what’s going to happen with this election. Like you, I expect it will be a squeaker absent some big event between now and November.

Janis Gore April 13, 2012 at 8:07 am

Since you brought this up before, I’ve been thinking that it will be something like 2004.

The PPACA will be comparable to the war in Iraq in how it influences turnout.

Romney is comparable to Kerry in terms of overall perception and, God bless ‘em, charisma.

But I don’t know what the states will include on their ballots that will have the drawing power of the marriage amendments that encouraged social conservatives to vote in that election.

Dave Schuler April 13, 2012 at 8:14 am

The PPACA will be comparable to the war in Iraq in how it influences turnout.

I don’t think so, Janis. I think that the economy will continue to be the issue on most people’s minds. Consider the most recent Gallup poll. I can’t interpret that as an overweening interest in the PPACA in either direction.

Consequently, if the unemployment rate goes over 9% and/or the labor force participation rate falls below 50%, the president could be in real trouble.

Janis Gore April 13, 2012 at 8:28 am

But there will need to be pegs for voters to hang their hats on. The PPACA and the spectre of penalties will be one of those pegs. Or, if it’s overturned, there will be drumbeat of Obama’s failure to institute “socialized medicine.” A background issue, for sure, but then, for most of the electorate, so was the war in Iraq.

Dave Schuler April 13, 2012 at 8:42 am

In this same poll at roughly this same time in 2004, 22% of the people listed “international issues”, i.e. the GWOT as the most important problem while 26% listed “economic issues”.

Today 5% of people list healthcare as the most important issue while more than 70% list the economy.

Janis Gore April 13, 2012 at 8:47 am

Twenty-two percent were concerned about terrorism, I’d think, not the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Icepick April 13, 2012 at 8:59 am

Obama’s main chance requires low voter turn-out. The higher the turn-out the more likely it is pissed off people voting. Pissed off people aren’t likely to be voting for incumbents. Obama will only want certain groups to turn out in numbers: blacks and whatever young people will be pushed to vote because of the Trayvon Martin thing, Democratic women will be pushed to vote because of “the war on women”. Independent and Republican women will be discouraged to stay home because of “the war on women”.

It’s going to be hard to drum up enthusiasm for someone who is still, over three years into his term, saying, “It’s not my fault!”

Icepick April 13, 2012 at 9:12 am

Independent and Republican women will be discouraged to stay home because of “the war on women”.

Sigh. Independent and Republican women will be discouraged FROM VOTING because of “the war on women”. Remember, kiddies, always check that one edit doesn’t necessitate other changes!

jan April 13, 2012 at 9:19 am

Icepick is right on about turn-out. The dems will not be as enthused in 2012 as they were in ’08, having now experienced what has been written on this former blank-slate-of-a-man. Obama got into office because of his soaring words, promises, and the fact he was black/white in racial ethnicity.

As President, he has failed to back up his words. He has broken the majority of his promises. And, he has done nothing but, IMO, make the black/white divide even wider in their differences and disgruntment with each other. And, I haven’t even gotten to how he has handled the economy!

Janis Gore April 13, 2012 at 10:11 am

And that’s the sort of talk that turns me right off the Republicans, Jan. I do think it would have been better had the president not made any statements about local law enforcement issues.

Janis Gore April 13, 2012 at 10:36 am

I just selfishly want the capital gains tax rates to not rise. We have business coming up in the next four years.

Michael Reynolds April 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I propose the slogan, “Enh, we might…” for the Obama team.

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