Victor Davis Hanson

In the 2008 campaign, Obama derided the war on terror as either ineffective or unconstitutional. That issue in 2012 will be ancient history, too, since President Obama has simply embraced all the major Bush-Cheney antiterrorism protocols and wars, and expanded many of them, from renditions to Predator drone targeted assassinations to a third war in Libya. Obama's campaign commercials will highlight the commander in chief who ordered the successful hit on bin Laden, not the civil libertarian who closed Guantanamo Bay as promised.

A supposedly do-nothing Congress that thwarted Obama -- like an earlier Republican one that had blocked "Give 'em Hell" Harry Truman -- won't come up much either. Remember, Obama had large majorities in both the House and Senate until January 2011. That's how he rammed through everything from Obamacare to trillion-dollar subsidies along strictly partisan majority votes. The "do-nothing" Congress of Obama's first two years that failed to pass alien amnesty and cap-and-trade legislation and failed to grow the economy was controlled by his fellow Democrats. Even now, the loud but largely still impotent Republicans only control one-half of one-third of the U.S. government.

So if we know what won't be campaign issues, what exactly will be?

The economy. If the current bleak picture stays the same or gets worse, Obama will be forced to argue, as did incumbent Herbert Hoover in 1932, that after four years his borrow/print/spend remedies still have not kicked in. And so he will claim that he needs eight years, not four, for Keynesian economics to finally work. Good luck with that silly argument.

But should things improve somewhat over the next year, then Obama will insist that his spending tonic is at last working, and he deserves another term to further nurse the recovering economy.

It is that simple: Almost every campaign issue other than the economy either will be off the table or irrelevant -- thanks largely to the past protocols of Barack Obama himself.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.