First, Obama has the advantage of incumbency. This means flying around the country at taxpayer expense on Air Force One. It means meetings in the White House and the perks of the office of the president.
Second, Obama has the advantage of money. He is well on his way toward raising $1 billion for his campaign. This does not include all of the money that he will raise directly and indirectly for the so-called Super PACs. It also does not include the billions of taxpayer vote-buying dollars that get handed out like candy as government expenditures, taxpayer-backed loans, or grants.
Third, Obama has the support of some highly motivated groups. For example, since his inauguration, Obama has delivered early and often for unions. This includes appointments to boards (like the National Labor Relations Board); union-friendly policies – many created by executive orders; legislation passed during the first two years of his presidency when Democrats controlled the House and Senate; and legislation he tried to pass but that was stopped once Republicans gained control of the U.S. House. In 2012, it will be time for unions to pay up or face marginalization. It is an easy decision. To put it simply, unions will be ‘all in’ for Obama.
Unions will be joined by a wide array of other groups vested in Obama’s reelection. These groups are not just supporters. They are political armies waiting for direction. Through technology, it is now possible to synchronize their events, communications, and actions in an unprecedented way.
And toward that end, Obama’s campaign team has fully “wired” every one of those groups. Now, with a touch of the “send: button on an iPad, entire groups can be directed to simultaneously begin singing from the same page of the hymn book at a prearranged location with the fervor and conviction of a spontaneous political eruption.
Fourth, Obama has a parade of celebrities, movie makers, media personalities, and news organizations ready and waiting to sing his praises or crucify his enemies. By the end, the censor of political correctness under the guise of allegations of racism will loom over any one who ventures an attack against the president.
The combination of all of these political assets does indeed make Obama a formidable opponent. Yet, add a couple more advantages. Obama is a talented campaigner supported by very effective strategists, pollsters, and operatives, all of whom play the political game very well. It is easy to see why media types think that Obama will win reelection in November.
There is only one problem. Elections are actually decided by voters, not media commentators, nor political pundits.
For Georgians, the 2012 presidential election is a little reminiscent of the 2002 gubernatorial election between then incumbent Gov. Roy Barnes and challenger Sonny Perdue. No one could imagine a way in which Perdue, the underfunded former state senator from Bonaire could actually unseat Barnes, the heavily funded, politically powerful, and omnipresent incumbent governor from Marietta. But he did.
Twice since 1980, voters have decided not to reelect a sittingpPresident. In 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent President Jimmy Carter. In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated incumbent President George Bush. Both times, the eventual winner weathered a tough primary for the right to face an incumbent resident. Both times, no one gave the eventual winner much of a chance. In fact, neither Reagan nor Clinton were considered ideal nominees at the time. Yet, both Reagan and Clinton won election (and reelection) handily. They proved that incumbent presidents can be beaten.
How? It was the economy, stupid. Both Reagan and Clinton kept a laser focus for their entire campaigns on the economy. While there were plenty of distractions in 1980 and 1992, the Reagan and Clinton campaigns were very good at staying on message. They understood Americans expect performance and the most important measure of performance is the economy. Stay on the economy and it will decide the election.
This year will be no different. If the 2012 election gets muddled into a political reality show featuring a different issue every week, then Obama’s political machine will manage itself right back into the White House. On the other hand, if the 2012 election distills down to one issue — the economy — then Nov. 6 will be a long and difficult night for Obama.
Randy Evans is an Atlanta attorney with McKenna Long & Aldrige LLP. He is the former General Counsel of the Georgia Republican Party and remains active in the party on both the state and national level. He can be reached at www.mckennalong.com or McKenna Long & Aldrige LLP, Suite 5300, 303 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30308.