If all goes according to plan, this will be my last column in this space before the 2012 general election. Despite the cult of personality, the novelty of America's first black president, the cool factor, a gift for oratory, and the countenance of the press and entertainment media, Barack Obama's chances for re-election have dwindled dangerously. While I think it's likely that he will be beaten badly, there is the possibility that I'm mistaken. There are still millions who will be voting for him on the basis of personal affinity, and the Obama campaign's ground game remains good; this of course will include methods ranging from the questionable to the outright illegal.
The dire economic circumstances in which the nation finds itself have already made the decision for many voters. It would be unprecedented for a sitting president to survive a re-election bid given the present scenario, based on elections past. To the electorate, it generally matters little whether the incumbent in question is directly responsible for economic woes, or if his actions to ameliorate them simply haven't produced sufficient results. Even with misrepresentation of the economic and jobs situation on the part of Obama and the press, people in financial distress (or with it hitting too close to home) are a little difficult to fool.
Attendant problems this president has faced (or created, as the case may be), while also misrepresented in the press, have served to further alienate the electorate. Scandals like "Fast and Furious" carry a certain political odor, but we can't forget that there are millions of Americans in the Southwest who are living their lives very differently based on the level of violence this administration has allowed to proliferate along our southern border. There's also the illegal campaign funding issue (which would be a major scandal right now were this a Republican president) and revelations of voter-registration fraud that have already emerged.
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Fallout from the Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate in Libya, dubbed "Benghazi-gate," has become – for Obama – a greater tragedy than the events of that fateful night. Duplicity and obfuscation on the part of the administration answering the lack of security at the compound in Benghazi first came into question. Then, inconsistency on the part of the White House and State Department relating to the ambassador's many requests for additional security and scores of episodes of aggression against the facility became evident.
It has been revealed that CIA operatives were ordered not to engage the assailants on the night of Sept. 11 and that the White House had access to real-time developments on the ground. It also appears that foreign service personnel – including the ambassador – were involved in clandestine weapons exchanges with factions in Libya. There have been major criticisms and accusations on the part of former intelligence and military personnel, as well as unconfirmed reports of major command reassignments in the U.S. North African Command surrounding events in Libya.
Still, I believe what's been even more damaging to the Obama campaign than the Benghazi fallout has been the president's recent comportment, as well as that of the campaign and his surrogates. Again, we have to factor out the bias in press reporting, but the three debates between Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney did nothing whatsoever for the president. His oratory on the campaign trail has been vague, street-level castigation and fear-mongering. The actions of supporters – whether yard sign defacement, or Michael Moore's video featuring foul-mouthed geriatrics – has been right out of the gutter.
I do not believe that these things go unnoticed by the average American voter, who does not live and breathe politics on a daily basis. Although we've raised a generation of shallow, wanton 20-somethings with little self-respect or sense of modesty, most Americans don't find political ads that draw a comparison between voting for Obama and getting deflowered "cool." If these are the lengths the Obama campaign believes it has to go, the confidence level in that camp cannot be very high.
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Both campaigns have paid a great deal of attention to certain states – Ohio in particular – as "must win" concerns. Now, seasoned analysts contend that some of these may be more likely to go for Mitt Romney than polling indicates, and that a few states presumed to go to Obama may not do so, monumentally shocking expert prognosticators.
All of the above considered, I suspect that the Obama campaign was more relieved at the opportunity to switch gears in the wake of Hurricane Sandy than it was concerned about the campaigning time lost. Unfortunately, this may work against Obama, since the natural indolence of many among his base will preclude their getting out to vote if there are post-hurricane-related impediments involved.
Although many of us rightly perceived it as disastrous, an Obama win in 2008 was fairly predictable, considering the political landscape at the time. As B.B. King sings however, "the thrill is gone." I guess we'll find out just how far gone it is in a few days, God willing.