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The (Shaky) Case for Obama 2012

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President Obama disembarks Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, following his trip to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011.
President Obama disembarks Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, following his trip to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Read side by side, a couple of new columns nicely capture the opportunity and the challenge for Barack Obama in 2012.

Julian Zelizer on Obama's case for a second term
The president's challenge is to pivot from being the hope-and-change candidate to representing the the status quo. The outlines of the argument for a second term are coming into view, says Zelizer. First, he'll say he's a pragmatist who's shown he can get things done within Washington's dysfunctional system; second, that the GOP has been hijacked by Tea Party loons; third -- Osama bin Laden, Osama bin Laden, Osama bin Laden …. But will it work? Too early to say. "The biggest challenge that the president faces is the problem that he has been unable to resolve: the economy. Unlike Reagan's re-election run in 1984 or Clinton's in 1996, it is not clear whether the economy will be on the upswing by the time the election season is fully under way. The recent jobs report painted a gloomy picture of the state of the economy. This remains a huge vulnerability for the administration, as most polls indicate." [CNN]

Harold Myerson on why that might not be enough
If Obama loses in 2012 - or squeaks by - historians will ask hy he didn’t do more, in his first months in office, to fight the recession and boost jobs. True, he sent a nearly trillion dollar stimulus package through Congress, but its achievements (unlike its jaw-dropping price tag) were barely visible, and insufficient.  Obama's economic team failed to reckon "the radical changes that had swept the American economy during the previous decade." American companies do more and more, and employ more and more workers, business in Asia, so "it should have been clear that when these companies regained their footing, they would hire abroad rather than at home." And given the decline of unions and the persistence of high unemployment, "it should have been clear that American employees had no power to increase their wages or dig out of the debt they had incurred as their incomes stagnated." Myerson's solution: "This recession required — and very much still requires — a massive public employment program to fill the hole created by our offshoring private sector and Americans families’ towering debt." If Obama doesn't step up, Myerson writes, it's probably over. [Washington Post]

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