Will Obama's 'Promises Kept' Reminder Backfire?


The president's new video demonstrates he won't go down without a fight, but it's what's left out -- the economy -- that will dominate the conversation.

The Obama re-election campaign is marking Iowa caucus day by releasing a video of candidate Obama on caucus night four years ago, when he pulled off his upset victory over Hillary Clinton. With the spotlight at its brightest, all eyes and TV cameras upon him, a very young-looking Barack Obama gave a substantive victory speech outlining what he wanted to do as president.

The two-minute video, called "2008 Iowa Caucus Victory Speech: Promises Kept," consists of speech excerpts and captions explaining what Obama has accomplished in each area. Leaving aside for a moment the question of how this will play with a depressed nation, it's hard to argue with most of the specifics. Obama promised to end the Iraq war and he did; he promised to cut middle-class taxes and he did; he promised to reform the health-care system and he did.

The weakest link is his promise to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Obama failed in his quest to get a cap-and-trade system to discourage use of fossil fuels, and his grant program to spark renewable energy industries is under fire after the Solyndra bankruptcy. But it is true, as the video says, that he has issued "historic efficiency standards" for cars and trucks.

The problem of course is what's missing, what Obama couldn't know back on his triumphant night in January 2008: that the economy would go into a terrifying tailspin eight months later, and that his presidency would be consumed with halting the precipitous slide and trying to reverse it. So far the economy remains a drag on Obama's popularity and re-election chances, providing plenty of ammunition for prospective Republican rivals to contend that he has "failed" and that they could do better.

A full-fledged recovery by November appears out of reach. An uptick is possible, but may not be enough to persuade restive voters that Obama is on the right path. Furthermore, beyond health care, it's a bit of a stretch to say -- as the campaign does -- that Obama delivered solutions to "decades-long challenges... under historically difficult circumstances." And as the ongoing battle over "Obamacare" makes abundantly clear, who knows if reminders of what Obama promised and achieved will have the desired effect.

Still, the video does underscore that Obama is no sitting duck. His presidency has been consequential and he intends to fight like hell to keep it.

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Jill Lawrence is a national correspondent at National Journal. She was previously a columnist at Politics Daily, national political correspondent at USA Today and national political writer at the Associated Press.

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