Osama, Obama and the 2012 Presidential election

It has been some time since I’ve posted on this blog. And what a strange couple of months it has been in US politics. The ongoing fiasco that is the US budget, ludicrous debates about President Obama’s birth certificate, and most recently, the death of Osama bin Laden. What, if anything, does all this mean for President Obama’s chances for re-election in 2012?

Probably not a whole lot, if the latest betting odds from online bookmaker Intrade.com are to be believed. As you can see in the chart below, Obama’s re-election odds spiked to 70% in the initial euphoria following Bin Laden’s death, only to quickly fall back to around 60%.

Nonetheless, Bin Laden’s death is important, because it is now going to be much harder for Republicans to paint Obama as a typical mamby pamby liberal who would rather sit down and drink tea with his enemies than fight them. But at the end of the day, it is the state of the economy that is going to determine Obama’s fate. And on this front, the news over the past week or two has been pretty mixed. (weaker than expected GDP, a poor reading on the services sector, and despite a solid jobs report on Friday, U.S. employment growth is barely keeping up with growth in the labour force).

You would think that these issues would be the main focus of the mainstream media as we head towards another interminably long election season (the first Republican debate was held on Friday), but like a gift from heaven, along came Donald Trump, providing newsreaders all over America with a welcome distraction from having to talk about the real issues.

For those of you unfamiliar with the recent chain of events, the property tycoon Trump — who has a gold-medal worthy combover and an ego the size of the Empire State building — has injected himself into the Presidential field over the past couple of months with a series of bizarre, erratic public appearances in which he has stated:

  • There are question marks about Obama’s nationality and he should produce his long-form birth certificate (the so-called “birther” issue)
  • The US should “keep all the oil” after winning the war in Iraq

When Obama produced his full “long-form” birth certificate last month, rather than admitting he was wrong, Trump decided to double down by demanding that Obama release his educational records. After all, how could a black man get into Harvard, be voted president of the Harvard Law Review, and then be elected President unless he was getting some kind of special treatment?

Trump is not (completely) stupid. At the end of the day he is practicing classic dog whistle politics. There are a certain percentage of nutters out there that will never vote for a black man as President (not to imply that there aren’t other good reasons not to vote for Obama). Since it is no longer socially acceptable to make such statements in public, this group has seized upon the so-called “birther” issue to de-legitimize Obama’s presidency. But this group is shrinking. According to one recent poll, just 10% of Americans now believe Obama was born overseas, compared to 20% before the recent release of his birth certificate. Ten percent still sounds pretty high, but hey, 7% of Americans are said to believe that Elvis might still be alive, so perhaps it’s not so bad…

Trump is clearly not a serious candidate, although he will provide plenty of fodder for late night TV comedians. So who can beat Obama? At the moment Mitt Romney heads the field of contenders (currently 23.8% on Intrade), but it’s far too early in the game to be making any predictions. All we can be certain of is that Donald Trump’s champagne comedy is probably just a taste of the craziness to come.

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Note: Like Donald Trump’s hair, my posting is likely to remain erratic for another month or two due to busy work and personal commitments. I do have a couple of posts in the pipeline though, and hopefully will soon return with some more thoughts on fund management. Until next time…

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Comments

  1. I dont think he will get elected simply because the Health care bill is going to come back and haunt him. It killed the Dems last year and will be the thing to haunt them and Obama for 2012.

    • Wrong! Obama will be re-elected simply because the alternatives are so appallingly bad. The fact that Mitt Romney is the leading GOP candidate should tell you that.

      • I would tend to agree that at the moment the Republican field looks extremely weak. And despite all of Obama’s faults, he is a pretty good campaigner.

  2. Lorax I appreiate your point but being from America the people there are not happy with him. He still holds lower numbers than Bush matter of fact I read or heard not to long on they are the worse of any president ever. American people are pissssssseeddddddddd off about this health care bill. I think Trump is just on a publicity stunt.

    • Name a GOP candidate, any candidate, who can come close to Obama and I’ll take you seriously.

      As for Obamacare, support for it is evenly split and nowhere near as poisonous as Fox News would have you believe.

      As for America’s economic malaise, Obama inherited a basketcase economy from Bush. It probably wasn’t the wisest move to reform healthcare in the middle of the worst recession in 70 years, but you can hardly blame Obama for the GFC.

      • Well I was born and raised in the US. I dont care whether anyone takes me serious or not. Obama is a joke and so was Bush. You want evidence look at what happened to the House mate. Look at how many seats the Senate lost. Lets see the Kennedy seat that was a Democrated seat for 50 years was lost to the Republicans. Thats your evidence. You have know idea how much Obama has made things worse. Yes he did inherit a mess but he has made it even worse. That healthcare bill is a F#$King joke. The majority of Americans want it gone. I agree there aint much in the Republicans. Did you actually read my comments ” Obama is running the lowest numbers ever from any president ” At this rate Bob Dole could come back and beat him. Now alot can happend between now and then. If the job market picks up he might have a chance but trust me I speak to lot of people(All over the US) from back home and I have yet to hear one person that backs him. I got alot of good friends in Chicago who say everyone up there cant wait to get rid of him.

    • I lived in the States for half a year which certainly doesn’t make me an expert but did allow me to realise that the US population is not solely made up out of gunwielding, government-hating rednecks as our media seems intend to make us believe. In fact, the US must be one of the most polarised countries I have ever seen.

      Just because our media tends to focus on the very focal Neocons doesn’t mean there isn’t an equally large part of the population who doesn’t support ‘socialist’ ideas to some extend. The fact Obama got elected is evidence of this.

      It all depends on what happens to the jobmarket in the next couple of months. If it keeps trending up Obama has a fair change. Won’t be an easy one though.

      • “Just because our media tends to focus on the very focal Neocons doesn’t mean there isn’t an equally large part of the population who doesn’t support ‘socialist’ ideas to some extend.”

        Yeah look at California who would love a socilist society. There State is one of the worst off because of this. They are running the largest deficit than any other state. What a joke.

        • Surely LBS you can distinguish between ‘socialism’ (I don’t agree on how this term is used nowadays, but hey…) and poor governance?

          Lots of countries around the world have ‘socialist’ systems and are faring quite well (considering the current crisis). My home country and Germany being two examples.

  3. Ron Paul (Libertarian) is the only candidate worth voting for, but he hasn’t the support or the money to run as a possible third party candidate.

    Even if Romney was to pull off a miracle and become the next President, I’ll be a case of – new boss same as old boss.

    Bush may have left a mess behind, but the Obama administration (which includes a significant number of Bush bureaucrats) has accelerated the disintegration process of the American economy.

    In my opinion there is only an illusion of choice. The US is under a system of corporatist fascism that owns and runs the government.