U.S. forces are fighting three costly, inconclusive wars; unemployment is 8.8 percent and the president’s new budget proposal would double the national debt in a mere 10 years. What a great moment for Barack Obama to declare for reelection.
Obama enters the 2012 race as the clear favorite. His poll numbers are weak but his public respect is solid; his money position is outstanding; even people like me, who think runaway federal borrowing is an error of historic proportions, admire the president. I can see myself pulling the lever for him in 2012, as I did in 2008.
Set aside zip code analysis and Electoral College positioning — what two leading indicators should give Obama pause? The decline of incumbency and the rise of third-party spoilers.
Presidential incumbency brings many advantages, not least of which is command of the nation’s attention. White House incumbents standing for reelection are 21-7 in American annals.
But recent trends matter most, and recently, incumbents have been on a mere 3-3 streak. Ronald Reagan (1984), Bill Clinton (1996) and George W. Bush (2004) were reelected. But Gerald Ford (1976), Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H. W. Bush (1992) were defeated when standing for reelection with all the powers and advantages of incumbency. Once, Americans almost always voted to retain an incumbent chief executive. Not anymore. Lately voters have been ornery.