Archives: Barack Obama not an underdog in 2012 race

Originally published in October 2011
Simon Nguyen

President Barack Obama, the idealist, has now become the populist. In an apparent shift in election strategy, the president has adopted a populist tone forcefully going after big banks and Wall Street millionaires. In a recent interview with Yahoo/ABC News, President Obama even declared himself “an underdog” in the 2012 presidential race. Is the president’s assessment accurate?

While the power of incumbency is not as big of an advantage as in past elections, it is still a significant advantage. By virtue of being the incumbent president, everything Barack Obama says or does immediately becomes major news. In effect, the president is getting free media coverage for his re-election campaign. Conversely, voters don’t get to know the GOP candidates aside from the televised debates. The only time a Republican candidate gets mass media coverage is when the person makes a controversial remark or when “dirty laundries” from one’s past are revealed.

Media exposure is just one of many incumbent perks. President Obama recently went on a West Coast trip that included several high-profile fundraisers benefiting his re-election bid. His trip was of course mostly paid for with taxpayers’ money. To be fair, all recent U.S. presidents have enjoyed this privilege. One thing is for certain: The president is likely to have many more of these trips from now until next November.

Another advantage for Barack Obama is the fact that the president remains very popular with African Americans and Hispanics. Although Hispanic support for Obama has slipped to near historic lows, according to Gallup, his standing with this critical group is still much stronger than that of his GOP rivals. As Republicans are facing backlash over efforts by GOP-controlled state legislatures to enact tougher immigration laws, President Obama is likely to gain even more Hispanic support. It is hard to see the president as an underdog when he enjoys a high support base.

Serving nearly a full term as president also gives Barack Obama an edge over his GOP rivals. Unlike when he first ran for president, Obama does not have to work as hard this time around to convince the American people that he is ready for the job. On the other hand, Republican candidates will have to prove to the voters that they have what it takes to be president. This is certainly no easy task.

About the site