Friday, November 19, 2010

Obama: Better off as a lame duck?

Nov 15, 2010
Obama: Better off as a lame duck?
David Jackson

A couple of pollsters have an odd suggestion for President Obama, if he wants to get something done with the new, more Republican Congress.

Announce he won't run for re-election.

Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell write in The Washington Post:

If the president goes down the re-election road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.

Schoen polled for former President Bill Clinton. Caddell worked for President Jimmy Carter, but has since been more of a political independent.

We rather doubt their analysis, however -- it's hard to see how Obama gains any leverage over congressional Republicans or Democrats by making himself a lame duck.

After he won the 1904 election, President Theodore Roosevelt announced that he would not seek re-election in 1908, a move he later regretted. It is often essential for an office holder to retain the option of taking his case to the people, if he or she cannot persuade their political opponents.

Lame duck-ism is also a reason that most second-term presidents struggle.

The last president to voluntarily forgo a re-election bid was Lyndon Johnson, amid the turmoil of the Vietnam War in 1968 and facing Democratic primary challenges from Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy.

Even then, LBJ didn't opt out of race until March 31, 1968, little more than seven months before the election.

A short-term lame duck is one thing. But two years?

There is little evidence that Obama will take the advice of Schoen and Caddell in any event.

Top political aide David Axelrod said yesterday on Fox News Sunday that he will return to Chicago in the late winter or early spring to start work on the president's re-election bid.

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