Weak challengers pave the way for Obama's second term

Professor Thomas F. Schaffer from the University of Maryland didn't keep his audience guessing as he lectured on the U.S. presidential election, coming up in the fall. The lecture took place at the House of Sciences and Letters on Friday 10 February.

Weak challengers pave the way for Obama's second term

– I believe that Barack Obama will be re-elected for a second term. It will be a tight race, but Obama will prevail, Schaller summarized right at the outset. Obama's second term will not be based on undivided popularity. Since the inauguration, the number of people satisfied with the Obama administration has been on level with the number of those who are dissatisfied. At the moment, dissatisfaction is actually slightly higher.

– The key to a happy electorate lies in the economy. At the moment, the situation seems to be developing favourably for Obama. Still, the worse the economy gets, the more difficult re-election may prove to be, Schaller said.

A tight contest for the republicans

The best guarantee for a second term is not Obama himself, but the weak candidates that the republicans have to offer. The presidential election does not only measure the quality of the president's work, but also the belief in the opposing candidates' ability to do better.

At the moment, not even supporters of the Republican Party seem to believe in their candidates.

– Republicans have too many runners and not enough quality, Schaller summarizes.

He still considers Mitt Romney the most likely winner of the primary rounds, but the race may turn out to be long.

– Last time, Ron Paul stayed in the race with John McCain until July. I can't see why he wouldn't do the same this time.

A dirty campaign ahead

The 65-year Romney has some weaknesses. His background is the first of these. Romney represents the richest one per cent of Americans; his father was also a governor and ran for president. This will alienate some supporters.

Secondly, Romney gained some of his wealth by buying struggling businesses and breaking them up.

– Many have lost their jobs because of Romney. This will certainly be used against him.

Thirdly, Romney's politics as the Governor of Massachusetts were liberal – a trend that he now declares to oppose. For example, Obama's health care reform, widely maligned by republicans, is based on a model promoted by Romney.

– The forces behind Obama aim to create an image of Romney as a whimsical populist, changing his opinion with the polls. This is the same old image that held back John Kerry, the Democratic Party candidate who ran against George W. Bush in 2004.

A dirty campaign can be expected.

– Romney will be forced to challenge Obama with a critical campaign, Schaller stated.

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Text: Juha Merimaa
Photo: Center for American Progress Action Fund
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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