Obama strengthened by weak Republican field

The other evening, I walked over to the local high school in my little home town just outside Washington, DC for a big campaign event with the Democratic Party, which completely controls my home state of Maryland — the governor, both houses of the State Legislature, both Senators in the U.S. Congress, and six of the state’s eight members of the House of Representatives.

They were all there that evening, Governor Martin O’Malley, Senator Ben Cardin, and the whole range of local Democratic politicians. Democratic National Party Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, showed up. Full house. Good atmosphere. Mobilization. “Four More Years.”

Suddenly, next year’s election felt near. Only a year to go, and only two months to the primary election campaign’s first battle, the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

Here in Maryland, the Democrats and President Obama have nothing to fear. Obama got 62 percent of the votes in 2008. There are many similar states where an Obama victory can safely be predicted already today – led by New York and California. But in many states, Obama’s victory is far from certain and certainty not in key states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, which are a particular concern for Obama and the Democrats.

In general, despite his foreign policy successes particularly in the fight against terrorism, it looks bleak for President Obama. His average approval rating in the series of Gallup polls is now down to 41 per cent, while 51 percent disapprove of him. That’s not enough, according election guru Charlie Cook, who writes that an approval rating of 48 to 50 percent is necessary to win.

That’s not impossible for Obama to achieve, but it will be difficult and a lot depends on how the U.S. economy develops, and if Obama, in the eyes of the voters, will be seen to help revitalize the economy and reduce unemployment. Today, discontent is wide spread. Occupy Wall Street has spread across the country , also here to Washington — DC Occupy — with two tent cities in downtown.

In the end, Obama will be pitted against one of the eight Republicans now running for president. It’s a weak field and their general weakness will benefit Obama. The field is today led by, remarkably, Herman Cain, businessman and political novice, who is now fighting for his political life after reports of sexual harassment in his past. Cain shares the lead with Mitt Romney, who few Republicans really seem to like. Romney, the “pretzel candidate” according to conservative columnist George Will, constantly changes his position and does not stand for anything. Has conservatism come this far to settle for this, asks Will.

Dissatisfaction with the existing eight candidates is the reason for the large swings in the opinion polls, up and down, repeatedly. It happened to Michele Bachmann, and it happened to Rick Perry. And now, it is likely Herman Cain’s turn. Regardless of the veracity of the sex allegations, the general verdict on how Cain has handled them has been scathingly negative.

The search for the “real” Republican presidential candidate continues – the one that is both a pure Conservative and has a real chance of beating Barack Obama. Does he or she exist? So far, the Republicans have not found their dream candidate and they mourn those who never ran, like Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Haley Barbour, and even those who quit, like Tim Pawlenty — he shouldn’t have done that.

After January 3 in Iowa, followed on January 10 by New Hampshire, the field of eight will be cut in half, maybe even more. Mitt Romney will not be among them. He will still be the man to beat.

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