When discussing the 2012 presidential election, most people fall into three camps. These three storylines show up through out various partisan groups, the only difference is how they are presented. Consider them, for there is support for all three in recent events, and decide where you fall.
A. Obama is Unstoppable, Easy Re-election. After killing Osama Bin-Laden, Obama has been riding high with a 60% approval rating. The economy has slowly, but steadily been recovering, and this puts him on a fine path to re-election. He has been taking moderate but publicly popular positions (see his latest immigration reform speech) and building a massive campaign organization. He will cruise to re-election.
B. Obama is going to win, but mainly because the Republican field is TERRIBLE! Obama isn’t doing that great. Unemployment remains high; he has not had any major legislative accomplishments since extending unemployment and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he is saved because the Republican field is one of the worst since John Kerry won the Democratic nomination by default. When Donald Trump showed up and quickly rose to second in the polls over a couple of weeks because of the birther issue, it shows that your field is really weak. The strongest candidate is probably Mitt Romney, who frankly looks and talks like the guy who just laid you off. Who else is in the field? Michelle Bachmann? Crazy and her vice-presidential pick is an ancient horror. Tim Pawlenty? Dull and uninspiring. Mike Huckabee? Maybe, he’s always been my pick, but he never seems to be serious about it. UPDATE: I was right, he dropped out May 16th. Newt Gingrich? Herman Cain? Really? Anyways, my point is that that this school of thought is that Obama might not be great, but he will coast to re-election because of the weak field on the other side.
C. Obama is doomed. He has pissed off his base, destroyed the economy, etc and will lose in a landslide. Despite the economic recovery news, unemployment remains high, gas prices continue to rise, we are still inAfghanistan and Iraq, and our debt continues to rise. This meme that Obama is doomed is more popular among Republicans but I’ve heard it from Democrats and Progressives as well. Some blame the President for inept handling of this or that, others blame his advisors, or the economy or the opposition, but there is a steady stream of pieces about how Obama is a one-term president.
Those are the three reoccurring stories that get tacked onto whatever piece of political news that comes out. Obama reaches this number in the polls, it must mean (insert a, b or c). The Republicans passed this resolution, it must mean (insert a, b, or c). Political reporting has become so narrative-focused, that I bet you 90% of the stories written from now until the first primary numbers come in are going to be some variations on these three themes.
Notice what isn’t there. There is no room in these stories for say, “We are a deeply divided country that is worried about our future and are unsure of the right path.” Or “Unheard of amounts of corporate cash are going to decide the winner of the election.” Or “People are frustrated with (Candidate), for (these reasons) but will end up voting for (that candidate) because they fit closest with their values and it will be a tight race either way.” Those stories provide context, depth and an understanding of the electorate, and clearly make terrible television and headlines.
So my question for you is do you fall into one of the above categories? I am sitting around option B, I don’t think Obama is a strong as he could be, but the Republican field is pretty weak this time around. What do you think? The floor is yours.