Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The State of the Union speech, the ultimate agenda-setting venue, serves as a launching pad for the 2012 reelection effort of an incumbent president facing a formidable challenge.
But his long odds are better than most would think, said Paul Rutledge, an assistant professor of political science at the University of West Georgia.
President Barack Obama is not going to have any real chance of passing a fourth-year agenda through the House, or a narrowly divided Senate, Rutledge said.
“He faces record national debt, low approval ratings and high unemployment. Election year politics dictate an uncooperative Congress,” he said.
Tuesday night was critical for the President to frame the debate that will determine the future and the legacy of his administration. "The debate is based on a choice, in which the president will clearly ask Americans to choose between himself and the Republican opponent not solely their on records, but on whom will be represented by each," Rutledge said.
What does it mean for 2012?
In most years we would discount the prospects of a president facing Obama’s challenges. He is vulnerable. His economic and approval ratings are terrible. But don’t count him out, according to Rutledge.
Thus far we have had three Republican contests with three different winners. "I think Obama may have the best chance against Mitt Romney," Rutledge said.
"Obama wants to make this election a choice between the president who represents the 99 percent or the one percent,” he said. “If one were to paint a perfect portrait of the one percent, placing Mitt Romney in that category is an easy sell based upon everything we know about him. This would leave Romney to turn to a base that could fit comfortably in your local Waffle House."
Sizing up the GOP contenders, Rutledge said Newt Gingrich has big and interesting ideas. “But he has more skeletons than a Halloween store,” Rutledge said.
Republicans have strong reasons to doubt his discipline and electability because of this, he said.
Rutledge also said that Santorum’s controversial views on social issues are a hard sell for moderates. However, he tells a compelling small town, working class story. He consistently beats the drum of manufacturing and middle class America and would be the hardest of the Republican candidates to label as a "one-percenter.”
"It seems a case can be made that Romney is the least electable Republican and Santorum the most electable,” Rutledge said. “Note, I do not take this statement lightly, and I know what it says about the Republican field. Obama stakes his presidency on a 99-to-1 shot. I think he likes his odds.”