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Is Obama preparing to withdraw?
Approval ratings show widespread discontent with the way US progressed in the barack years. But Obama doesn’t seem imminently worried – and there’s not much visible fight-back action on his part to regain approval. Is the first black president who won a historic election in reality preparing to withdraw from the race?
Issue Date - 19/01/2012
“You have just sent a message that Barack Obama will be a one-term president,” Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann hollered to her supporters after winning the Iowa straw poll on August 13, 2011. Although the ultraconservative Ms. Bachmann might not necessarily be the one whose views evoke historic submissions, there are critical quarters who have started suspecting that Obama may well be a one-term president, that too at his own behest.

On the face of it, such suspicions can be swept aside – Obama formally launched his 2012 bid in April this year (“Even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today,” he told supporters in an e-mail then). But look beyond the formal statements into Obama’s responses since April, and one could well start adding up to the conclusion that not all is prim and proper in his committed intent to stand for the November 2012 presidential election.

Obama joined the White House with some of the toughest challenges – a shattered economy, the Iraq & Afghanistan war. His April nomination announcement resonated the emotion of these issues. Not only was the announcement understated (compared to the frenetic hype & hoopla in 2008), but the 2012 reelection campaign logo (a bland image that simply has the term “2012;” written), the marketing video (titled, “It begins with us”) and even the subsequent rhetoric has been underplayed. Noticeably, the 2008 campaign had 20 odd iconic slogans being peddled quite successfully. The current “It begins with us” slogan is clearly in an alien league.

Unlike the 2008 race, Obama has mystifyingly chosen not to play up the counteroffensive against Republicans. He missed the best opportunity he had in destroying the popularity of the Republican party, when they messed up the recent US government debt level increase debate. This is a fact now even accepted by some Democrats. One could have argued that given that the 2012 presidential election is quite some distance away, this is a typical Obama strategy to ‘time it right’. But then, the argument countering it seems stronger, as with each passing day, Obama’s ratings have only fallen since April, and the need of the hour is a smashing image pushup. Add to this the statement of Obama’s reelection campaign adviser Bob Gibbs in August – “The president is not focused on keeping his job, most of all. He’s focused on creating jobs for the American people” – and we’re staring at the real possibility of Democrats getting confused about where Obama is headed.

When Obama took office in early 2009, he had a well balanced ‘all-star economic team’, with members like former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, Great Depression scholar Christina D. Romer, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker and others. Christina Romer left in September 2010. She was replaced by Austan Goolsbee who later resigned as well. Larry Summers, who was appointed as director of National Economic Council left in January. The Office of Management & Budget director, Peter Orszag left Obama’s team in July, 2011. So did Rahm Emanuel. Yes, Obama is lonely at the top. For Democrats, Obama is the best bet still for President, that is, if he is onto it. If he wishes to withdraw, the moment has to be now, or else every week of delay will only dent Democratic ambitions further.


Akram Hoque           

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