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Can Obama win re-election?

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While Republicans and Democrats pick up the pieces from the congressional elections, the 2012 White House race is already off to a vigorous start with President Barack Obama facing potential challenges from more than a dozen would-be Republican opponents.

Obama faces a bleak political landscape after voters punished Democrats for the sluggish economic recovery and handed control of the House of Representatives to Republicans.

Obama now faces two big challenges — to get newly empowered Republicans to work with him on measures to revive economic growth, and to find ways to connect with middle-class Americans, many of whom view him as aloof and cerebral.

His predicament is difficult but not impossible.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both had approval ratings close to — and even lower than — the 45 percent level where Obama’s popularity now stands and both suffered big midterm setbacks in congressional elections.

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