Many people would like a 2008 do-over.
Some would prefer to change the Democratic party candidate in the next presidential election. Even though the current one is the president. This started recently as a murmur and then a buzz, generated by an eager media, joined in jest(?) even by former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President Bill Clinton.
“You know, I’m very proud of her, and so I’m always gratified whenever anyone says anything nice about her,” Mr. Clinton said when asked about Cheney’s recent comment that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most competent member of the Obama administration and would make a stronger candidate for the Democrats than Mr. Obama in 2012.
Yes, that’s the buzz. It’s being floated as a trial balloon in some places. And dropped like a foursquare concrete block in others. Like the president’s hometown paper. Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman doesn’t mince words.
When Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984, his slogan was “Morning in America.” For Barack Obama, it’s more like midnight in a coal mine.
The sputtering economy is about to stall out, unemployment is high, his jobs program may not pass, foreclosures are rampant and the poor guy can’t even sneak a cigarette.
His approval rating is at its lowest level ever. His party just lost two House elections — one in a district it had held for 88 consecutive years. He’s staked his future on the jobs bill, which most Americans don’t think would work.
The vultures are starting to circle. Former White House spokesman Bill Burton said that unless Obama can rally the Democratic base, which is disillusioned with him, “it’s going to be impossible for the president to win.” Democratic consultant James Carville had one word of advice for Obama: “Panic.”
But there is good news for the president. I checked the Constitution, and he is under no compulsion to run for re-election. He can scrap the campaign, bag the fundraising calls and never watch another Republican debate as long as he’s willing to vacate the premises by Jan. 20, 2013.
There’s more, keep reading.
In the event he wins, Obama could find himself with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Then he will long for the good old days of 2011. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner will bound out of bed each day eager to make his life miserable.
Besides avoiding this indignity, Obama might do his party a big favor. In hard times, voters have a powerful urge to punish incumbents. He could slake this thirst by stepping aside and taking the blame. Then someone less reviled could replace him at the top of the ticket.
The ideal candidate would be a figure of stature and ability who can’t be blamed for the economy. That person should not be a member of Congress, since it has an even lower approval rating than the president’s.
It would also help to be conspicuously associated with prosperity. Given Obama’s reputation for being too quick to compromise, a reputation for toughness would be an asset.
Even without the giveaway up top, you can see where this is going.
As it happens, there is someone at hand who fits this description: Hillary Clinton. Her husband presided over a boom, she’s been busy deposing dictators instead of destroying jobs, and she’s never been accused of being a pushover.
Not only that, Clinton is a savvy political veteran who already knows how to run for president. Oh, and a new Bloomberg poll finds her to be merely “the most popular national political figure in America today.”
If he runs for re-election, Obama may find that the only fate worse than losing is winning. But he might arrange things so it will be Clinton who has the unenviable job of reviving the economy, balancing the budget, getting out of Afghanistan and grappling with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Obama, meanwhile, will be on a Hawaiian beach, wrestling the cap off a Corona.
I keep getting asked who I think is the real GOP frontrunner, or who I think is most plausible and ‘electable’ (which is the word of the moment) in the Republican field, and frankly I’m still on a listening tour there. There are issues with everyone in the field. But frankly, the question is now keenly being put to the one currently holding the office. I’m listening there, too.