When British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked what might knock his administration off course, he famously responded, "Events, dear boy, events." There's a lot of truth to that. At any point in time, an unexpected event can throw the political world into turmoil. However, more often than not, it's not the blindside hit that gets you so much as the freight train you've seen coming for miles.
When Barack Obama came into office, he had a number of serious challenges to deal with and not only has he effectively addressed very few of them, many of them have worsened on his watch. In fact, the thing Barack Obama has proven most adept at in his first term is pointing the finger elsewhere. He may have been able to shift the blame from himself to George Bush, the filibuster, the Supreme Court, Republicans in Congress, Rush Limbaugh, ATM machines, the economy in Europe and everything under the sun, but after four years and counting in office, more and more of the American people are going to be interested in results rather than excuses. How Barack Obama handles those issues may not only determine how he's viewed by the American people, it could conceivably impact the reputation of the Democratic Party for decades.
1) When does the economy recover? At some point, you have to think that the natural vitality of the economy will reassert itself and get the country moving again. On the other hand, just as FDR's tinkering caused the Great Depression to extend out for over a decade, Obama's socialistic policies could continue to stall economic growth. Obama's determination to increase taxes, expand government, take over new industries and generally make war on productive industries and people -- along with the impact of our debt, the soft housing market, the implementation of Obamacare and the hundreds of billions of dollars in new regulations he'll impose -- will all be drags on economic growth. Can the economy recover and start pumping out jobs at a decent clip despite all of Obama's handicaps? Your job may depend on it.
2) What happens in the Middle East? Barack Obama embraced the Arab Spring that's throwing the Middle East into turmoil. That means if Egypt and Libya fall apart, Obama gets the blame. If Egypt were to end its peace treaty with Israel, Obama would also be at fault. Then there's Iraq and Afghanistan. He put timelines in place in both nations, which was a very risky strategy. An implosion in either country would reflect badly on him. Additionally, our relationship with Pakistan, which is a highly unstable, nuclear armed nation, has deteriorated significantly on Obama's watch. We also can't forget that Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons, which would be a terrifying prospect for Israel and could create a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Barack Obama may be great at managing the media, but he isn't effectively managing any of these issues right now and the potential is there for things to quickly spiral out of control.
3) Will there be key Supreme Court vacancies? There are four Supreme Court Justices that are over seventy years of age including Antonin Scalia (76) and Anthony Kennedy (76). Unlike the conservatives on the court, the liberal justices slavishly vote based on what serves liberalism, not the law. What that means is that if Obama were able to replace one or both of those retiring justices, it's not an exaggeration to say that the Constitution would for all intents and purposes cease to exist because there would be five liberal votes for almost anything that the Left wants to do.
4) Will we have any large scale terrorist attacks in the United States? Al-Qaeda is certainly degraded, but it's not spent, the border is still wide open, the Obama Administration doesn't seem to take Homeland Security all that seriously, and the remnants of Bin Laden's organization would love nothing better than to show that it's still a powerful force by launching a large scale attack in the United States. In the wake of a serious terrorist attack, there could certainly be a rally-round-the-flag effect, but the American people have become very complacent at this point and are assuming the government has it all handled. If that turns out not to be true when the perception is that this isn't a big issue for Obama in the first place, the reaction could be savage.
5) Does Obama get caught up in any scandals? Obama is not a "letter of the law" sort of guy. He plays it fast and loose, lies if he gets in trouble and assumes the press will cover for him. That has already produced Fast and Furious and the Benghazi cover-up -- two scandals with body counts. Neither Fast and Furious nor Benghazi has reached its apex and you can be sure that there will be other significant scandals in the works just because of Obama's habitual try, lie and deny way of tackling issues. Then the question becomes, how aggressive will the Republicans be and will there be any major mainstream media organizations aside from Fox that have enough integrity to go after Obama? Although it's unlikely that Obama would be impeached, realizing that Obama makes Nixon look like a choir boy would be no small matter.
6) How bad will our debt crisis get? Republicans seem to be more willing to consider tax increases, but Democrats still don't seem to have any interest in tackling entitlement reform and their willingness to make other significant cuts to the budget seems to be extremely limited as well. On the other hand, although it could just be a negotiating posture, the early indications seem to be that the Democrats' strategy is to go over the fiscal cliff and then try to blame Republicans for the slowdown. The good news is that would undoubtedly help a great deal with the size of the deficit, but it could also slow down the economy. Unfortunately, unless Obama has a change of attitude, it could conceivably be the one opportunity for large spending cuts in the next four years. If that turns out to be the case, expect our credit rating to slide even further. If Western Europe gets its spending issues under control and investors feel more comfortable in putting their money back in those countries, it even possible that our full transformation into Greece could start before the end of Obama's second term.
7) How difficult will the implementation of Obamacare become? While working to get Obamacare passed, the Democrats just said anything and everything that people wanted to hear about Obamacare. Now, there are a lot of people who are expecting a nearly free, well-run medical care system that covers everyone and allows people to keep whatever they like about the current system. Instead, they're going to see tax increases, a decrease in the number of available doctors, businesses dropping insurance because of Obamacare, delays, uneven implementation, and price increases among a plethora of other problems. In other words, it's going to be a Hurricane Sandy for the American medical system.