As President Obama begins his reelection campaign, he faces an array of obstacles. The unifying theme that helped him win the 2008 election is a faint memory. Even if the economy grows briskly over the next 18 months, the unemployment rate is likely to remain above 8 percent on Election Day.
Consider this a preliminary report card regarding some of the president’s challenges.
Political Identity: C. Who is this guy, and where does he want to take the country? Obama’s hope-and-change platform in 2008 allowed people to fill in whatever details they wanted. This strategy served a little-known candidate, but it’s untenable for an incumbent. Americans know that Obama has a vision—70 percent do, according to an April 9-10 CNN/Opinion Research poll of 824 adults.
But there are several obstacles for Obama. One is the bizarre birther phenomenon, which cuts both ways: It paints Republicans as crazy to independent voters; but it also provides an avenue for some voters to express views that might otherwise be taboo to discuss, perhaps about his race or his religion.