Then there is the powerful desire Americans have to see their presidents succeed. That worked for Bill Clinton in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2004. Polls and focus groups showed that voters in the middle of the political spectrum were ready to overlook their weaknesses and appreciated their strengths in those years. That could be the case with Obama in 2012.
Moreover, there will be a reluctance on the part of many voters, understandable in light of our history, to reject the first African-American president. I'm convinced, though I cannot prove, that Americans who feel this way far outnumber those few who cannot abide seeing a black man in the White House.
All of which does not mean that Obama is a sure winner. Polls suggest that if the election were held today he could lose to several possible Republican nominees who are much less well known and have weaknesses of their own. But they also suggest he could win.
Working against Obama still will be substantive issues. Most Americans want to repeal Obamacare; he wants to keep it. Most voters rejected his vast expansion of the size and scope of government; he still thinks it's a good idea.
Obama came to office with the assumption that economic distress would increase support for his policies to (in his words to Joe the Plumber) "spread the wealth around." But the 2010 midterms make it about as clear as these things can be that voters reject such efforts.
American voters are not seething with envy over income inequality and are not convinced that we'll all do better if the government takes away more of Bill Gates' money. Obama, like the academics in whose neighborhoods he has always chosen to live, think they should be seething and that if the message is just delivered the right way they can be convinced.
That's a big difference on some fundamental issues. Enough to make the difference in 2012? Not clear.
Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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