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November's Monthly Debate: Is Barack Obama the Frontrunner for the 2012 Presidential Election?

There's No Other Option

Obama is the front-runner for the 2012 election. I’ll admit, this is the outcome I’d like to see as a Democrat. So, being the glass-half full kind of person that I am, I will make the case that Obama is in good shape for 2012. One year out, even with what some are calling a negative outlook pervading the country, Obama’s chances are looking up and today’s elections make that his position even more promising. I will make 3 core arguments as to why Obama’s the “frontrunner” even with an entire year between now and the general election.

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James Carville Was Right

Directing Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign, Cajun-savant James Carville posted a sign in the Clinton Campaign headquarters with three key messages that all staffers were to follow:

1.     Change vs. more of the same

2.     The economy, stupid

3.     Don’t forget health care

It is with a heavy dose of irony that I submit that these three talking points will most likely be showing up on the wall of whichever Republican winds up winning his or her party’s nomination for President and, just as in 1992, are more likely than not to lead them to victory. Taking each in turn suggests that Barack Obama’s reelection is anything but a slam dunk.

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It's Barely a Race

Josh has raised some valid concerns and challenges for Obama’s reelection chances, but none of them rise to the level of a reason why Obama is not the frontrunner. Josh points out the obvious problems for Obama’s campaign but fails to make the case that there is a legitimate challenger to Obama, at all, period. I’ll first reiterate the strengths of Obama’s campaign and then respond to Josh’s three main arguments.

 

1. Obama’s ahead of the pack

Obama’s ahead of the pack because its still a pack and the Iowa caucus is only a little more than a month away. The GOP field has done little to redeem itself and every day seems to find a different alternative in the spotlight to attempt to replace “Mr. Boring” (aka Mitt Romney). Is it Newt “crazy eyes” Gingrich, Herman “Libya what?” Cain, or any other of the ragtag republican challengers??

This is a far bigger issue for Josh’s position than he would like to admit. For there to be a “frontrunner” there has to be a runner. The year’s GOP field is weaker than Greek bonds, and that’s saying a lot. What’s more there is no answer to the compelling argument made frequently that this weakness is attributable to the fact that any real Republican candidate that might have thought about running has been deterred by the strength of the incumbent Obama.

Josh even makes this point about Romney:

Sure, he’s been a perpetual bridesmaid to the flavor of the week, be it Perry, Cain, or most recently Gingrich….

The best Josh can say is that “Romney is a relatively palatable choice”…. That’s not enough to overcome a likeable incumbent president.

Besides being as about as exciting as getting socks for Christmas, Romney perpetually looks like he’s trying to keep his lips pursed to prevent his real thoughts from sneaking out:

Gawker has it right: Romney is “Boring and Wrong” – here’s how uninteresting candidate Romney is, he has admitted to as a teenager he was very sinful…. wait for it…

“I tasted a beer and tried a cigarette once, as a wayward teenager, and never did it again.’”

For the American public that once choose a president on the basis of who they would rather have a beer with, Romney is not winning any likability factors with his personality, let alone the religion problem. AND people don’t trust him, the LA Times reports:

…their perception that he has routinely molded his views to suit the political mood, with ambition his overriding principle.

Mitt Romney’s hair is the only thing people remotely like about the man.

To top it off, his first ad is so blatantly out-of context and out-of-touch that it begs the question of just who is charge of his media campaign, because right now it just seems like they are winging it. Here’s the video:

The ad, as the New York Times reports, takes Obama’s voice in 2008 attacking McCain and attempts to make is seem – with little success – that this is Obama’s position. NYT writes:

In the ad, Mr. Obama is heard declaring that “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”Cut out was the context of Mr. Obama’s comment, which was made during the 2008 presidential election, about John McCain, his presidential rival: “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

This is the definition of flailing. There have to be actual Obama quotes, not taken out-of-context, on the economy that Romney’s campaign could have used, but they choose something just so easily taken apart. It’s lazy. It’s boring. And wrong.

The unending debates (of which there are 58 left to go…) have helped no one – as this following cartoon by Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution illustrates:

2. The Economy & Health Care

Josh makes a big stir about the economy. Admittedly this is Obama’s greatest hurdle and he knows it. The problem is that the Republicans look just as bad and it seems like their fault. The failure of the supercommittee is so clearly a congressional failure and the Republican position to refuse absolutely revenue increases is untenable and unpopular. A recent poll found that 37% blame the GOP for the failure and only 5% blame Obama. That tells the whole story.

More importantly, the Obama position on the economy is in line with the public mood, as the Business Spectator reports:

Public polling over the past year suggests that a sustained posture of defending the middle class, supporting popular government programs, and calling for a more equitable tax distribution will be popular among many key demographic groups necessary to win in the 12 battleground states analysed here.

Even despite the poor economy, Obama is still ahead. That’s just how poor the competition is. The Wall Street Journal reports today:

And yet, despite all the problems, Mr. Obama sits in a fairly comfortable position. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 45% of those surveyed said they “probably” will vote to re-elect the president against “the Republican candidate.”

And in regards to Health Care two things bear keeping in mind. First, Romney cannot campaign on this without looking like a complete dithering flipflopper: End of story. Second, the Affordable Care Act is a good and necessary piece of legislation and which will become more popular once its provisions start to reap benefits for many who will start having a more reasonable health system, particularly better preventative care.

 

3. The Frontrunner - Obama

Obama is undoubtedly the frontrunner. Certainly there are issues and a tough road to 270 electoral votes.

But the campaign will be decisive, and Obama has the most money and the fiercest campaign machine of late, as the Guardian puts it:

Of course, forecasting elections a year away ignores the impact of a campaign. By spending a record amount, the Obama campaign’s impact should be powerful.

Obama’s numbers are on the rise and the chances are that his campaigning will be just as good or better than 2008. I’m betting on Obama and you should too.

 

Sarah Spring, PhD Candidate in Communication Studies at the University of Iowa and Assistant Debate Coach with the A. Craig Baird Debate Forum.

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The Monthly Debate

Each month, we host an in-depth debate on a current controversy. These debates take place between coaches from the competitive debate community, and are grounded in research. Debates last for four weeks, with each side allotted a total of two posts to present their arguments. The affirmative debater (who answers “yes” to the question of the topic) posts during the first week. The negative debater (who answers “no” to the question of the topic) replies during the next week. The affirmative makes final arguments the week after that, and the negative finishes the debate during the fourth week.

Participants have agreed to offer the most reasonable and effective arguments available to those who agree with their assigned perspective – the views expressed in these debates are not necessarily those of the individual debater. Debate coaches who want to be involved in future controversies can contact us here. If you want to suggest a topic for a future debate, click here.