Right now I think the likelihood of Barack Obama being reelected is far from assured.
Political commentator Mark Halperin thinks that concluding a deal on deficits and debt will greatly aid Obama in his reelection bid. With regard to how a deal will go down with Democrats on Capitol Hill, Halperin observes:
“Democratic strategists (including those associated with the President) will quietly argue to liberals that this is the best deal they could get, and that a deal is vital. They will also argue (even more quietly) that such a deal will make the President’s re-election even more likely (by as much as 15%-20%), freeing him up to raise more money for them in 2012. Smart/honest Republicans will agree with that judgment, but will be powerless to make it in public.”
Halperin believes that signing a deficit / debt deal will allow Obama to “take off the table the single most damaging issue that could be used against him in 2012.”
TIME Magazine’s Jay Newton-Small believes that even a deal half as large as the proposed $4.5 trillion dollar deal will still play out to Obama’s favor. Saturday’s apparent failure to continue along the path to the largest deal suggested to date is seen by Newton-Small as a minor victory for the president. To wit:
“The details of a smaller deficit reduction deal have yet to be worked out, but the collapse of the grand bargain leaves President Obama in a more favorable political position. If both parties agree to cut $2 trillion from the budget with minor tax increases, he’ll notch a bipartisan accomplishment. But he can also say he tried something more ambitious in putting cuts to Social Security and Medicare on the table without facing the political fallout of actually slashing those programs. He went big and congressional Republicans — not to mention the noticeably silent 2012 Republican presidential candidates — didn’t. It will be Republicans who will have to justify bowing to the extreme wing of their party and walking away from a deal that included some ten times more spending cuts than revenue increases. Some things just aren’t too big to fail.”
If we weren’t in the midst of a crisis in unemployment and new job creation I would be inclined to agree with both Mark Halperin and Jay Newton-Small. However, the electorate’s sentiments on the wider economy leave Obama’s political fate in a continual state of peril. If Obama can secure a deal on deficits and debt and convince the public that the Republicans would have employed the same tactics to fight the Great Recession that he did and with the same results, he may very well be reelected. If the deficit / debt deal is seen as flawed and not likely to truly reduce future government spending while protecting entitlements it’s usefulness to Obama’s reelection will be of diminished value. Likewise, with many of the perceived benefits of the deal accruing in the future, the advantages of such a deal to Obama’s reelection may be trumped on election day by concerns about employment, thereby sealing the fate of the Obama presidency.