Here are five advantages Obama brings to the 2012 reelection campaign:
- Independents remain fickle and not particularly enamored with Republicans, meaning Obama has a chance at winning them over. Also, the independents who voted for Obama in 2008 did so because he promised to restore America's standing in the world. He can argue he's done that in 2012.
- Obama isn't losing the idea war. If anything, it's fluid, and he can exploit that. Some top (potential) Republican challengers have strong records, but what it will gain them is unclear. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has a roster of impressive accomplishments, Newt Gingrich is a conspicuous idea man, and Haley Barbour is known for his political acumen, but they each have their negatives. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's record in Minnesota can help win him some votes in a primary, but it isn't necessarily scalable to a general audience. And Mitt Romney's best day in office, when he signed health legislation as Massachusetts's governor, is one he'd rather forget.
- Obama has an extremely well-oiled, responsive, grassroots election machine. Organizing for America, which became the campaign-in-exile during the past two years, has spent a lot of its time building capacity for 2012. Obama also runs the party now; there will be no period of adjustment. Add to this the synchronization of his senior staff: Everyone knows each other, is on the same page, and dissenting voices have been, quietly, purged.
- By and large, Americans do not cotton to the "projection of strength" view of the world that the previous administration accepted as its mantra. They may have questions about where Obama is going, but humility remains a plus -- not a minus -- so long as they still envision America winning. Americans seem to struggle along with Obama as he tackles foreign policy challenges. That could be a sign that he won't be hurt too much by those challenges in 2012.
- Social issues, by and large, seem less and less important to those Americans whose votes are switchable. This is a plus for Democrats and a minus for Republicans.
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The Next America
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Marc Ambinder is a former contributing editor at The Atlantic.