Obama's re-election road: Hope and a hard climb as DNC begins

David Albers/Staff
- President Barack Obama boards Air Force One to depart from Southwest Florida International Airport on Friday, July 20, 2012, in Fort Myers.

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David Albers/Staff - President Barack Obama boards Air Force One to depart from Southwest Florida International Airport on Friday, July 20, 2012, in Fort Myers.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — People remember the hope and the history. For him or against him, they picture candidate Barack Obama as the one who stood on stage in a football stadium in Denver and accepted the Democratic presidential nomination by declaring "It's time for us to change America."

Forgotten, it seems, is what Obama said when he actually won.

"The road ahead will be long," he said solemnly that November night in Chicago, displaying none of the euphoria of his supporters. "Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year, or even one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."

That message amounted to a political framework for Obama's entire presidency, and for the shot he has at continuing it.

With polls showing a close contest, Obama needs voters to recall how life was back at the start, to judge what he has done as productive but unfinished, to put everything in the perspective of climbing out of the worst economic hole of their lifetimes. He always said it might take more than four years, after all.

Now he is up against both historical odds, given the nation's high unemployment, and a formidable Republican challenger in Mitt Romney.

Obama's own four-year road has been steep, from Denver in 2008 to Charlotte, N.C., where he will accept his party's renomination Thursday night. His message of hope is still tucked in there, but the pitch is a lot more hang-in-there-with-me.

The country is divided over him. The politics he promised to change remain nasty. Yet whatever one thinks of him, his presidency has been consequential.

Grappling with a monster recession at the start, Obama moved fast to get passage of a giant stimulus package with the support of his party. When the public mood later shifted to disgust over debt, he and his Democratic allies in Congress took a midterm shellacking, forcing him to adjust to the frustrating life of divided government.

His signature domestic effort, an overhaul of health coverage in America, gobbled up time and capital. He barely got it through the legislative body and watched anxiously as it sped toward review at the Supreme Court. It survived by one vote — from Chief Justice John Roberts, whose confirmation then-Sen. Obama had refused to support.

That high court, meanwhile, is beginning to bear Obama's stamp. Before his term was half over, he had won confirmation of two justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Obama ended the unpopular Iraq war, although it was on the path to an end anyway. And he is promising to close the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Even his critics applauded at least one defining moment. Obama ordered the risky raid to send special operations forces into Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden, the most hunted terrorist in the world. The al-Qaida leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was shot dead.

Most of Obama's term has been scandal free, with exceptions such as Secret Service agents hiring prostitutes in Colombia.

Yet his years have been loaded with conflict and crises.

The Gulf oil spill. The military action in Libya. The auto bailout. The soaring national debt. The near government shutdown. The near government default.

He won a Nobel Peace Prize. And he felt compelled under pressure to show his long-form birth certificate to prove he was born in the United States.

Those close to Obama say he is fundamentally the same person as always. He has, though, changed in certain ways before the nation's eyes.

Given turnover in the inner circle of world leaders, Obama is now the veteran, not the new guy.

He has hit 51, lanky and in good shape and no longer smoking. But he wears the look of his job.

"I don't think there's any doubt that our presidents grow in office," says his friend and campaign adviser, Robert Gibbs. "And in some cases, they gray, too."

Obama invariably talks of decisions through the filter of fatherhood. His daughters, Malia and Sasha, have turned 14 and 11 in the White House.

Heading toward Election Day, about half the country approves of Obama's performance. That standing has been pretty steady for the past three years.

The public gives him worse grades on his handling of the economy. Yet more people than not like him personally.

Rarely part of the discussion: his race or his role as the nation's first black president.

"He has an acute sense of history. He wants to be remembered as a great president, not a civil rights icon," said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University. "He wants to be an equal of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt. He doesn't want a special nod to history because of race."

Right now he wants four more years.

Obama has conceded he has not changed the tone in Washington. And that, at times, he has lost a connection with the American people.

"The mistake of my first couple of years was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right," Obama said recently. "And that's important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."

Obama's campaign pitch this year could be ripped from the speech he gave on that Denver convention stage four years ago — essentially that government can help the middle class and support private industry and protect the hurting. He says Republicans favor an economic trickle-down approach that leaves people on their own.

Voters have two choices to make.

The first is whether to give Obama credit for economic progress. The other is whether they think he or Romney will lead the nation better going forward.

The economy weighs on Obama's chances. He is expected to face voters with the highest national unemployment rate of any president since the Great Depression. The jobless rate got as high as 10 percent in October 2009. It is now at is 8.3 percent, about where it was in his first full month in office.

The climb back remains enormous.

The nation lost 8.7 million jobs in the recession and its aftermath in 2008 and 2009. Since then, it has regained 3.9 million.

Obama once said, early in his term, that if the people were not feeling economic progress in three years, then he faced a "one-term proposition." Challenged about that this year, he said: "I deserve a second term, but we're not done."

Voters will soon decide.

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Comments » 18

ajm3s writes:

It is finally evident, that the NYT is now starting to write with perspective that I happen to agree.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/us/...

The higher they hold themselves, the easier it is to compete and win against unless they are truly talented and knowledgeable.... to which I do not believe Mr. Obama is.

It will show itself in the final vote tally, because I believe the American folks that are independent will vote against his re-election.

I am still predicting 9 bold point spread.

Vote 2012

August8 writes:

AJM3s-- Could not agree with you more, he's shallow, weak and untrustworthy and a second term would prove it.We don't have the time to waste on this "waste".
Now--- Why would anyone be reading the NY Times??????????

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

$16,015,769,788,215.80 Obamas crowning achievement!!!!!! No he didn't start it. Yes Romney will add to it. But, I gotta go with a guy that's "All IN" and not afraid to show it! Obama 2012! Try to make it + $10 Trillion by 2016! Yes we can!!!!!!!!!! Oh...and a new record set today for Americans on food stamps!! Yes we can!! 100 million Americans on food stamps by 2016!!! Yes we can!!!!!!!!!!! HOPE!

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

So... I've been thinking quite a bit about my up coming choice. I'm coming around to Klaus's hero.

My thought process. They make some pretty nice double wides these days. Maybe pick one up, set in a non tornado prone area? Maybe the pacific Northwest? Beautiful country! Maybe on or near a lake? Maybe near the coast? Buy lots of precious metals now? Bury them. Hoard cash over the next few years. Bury it. Show nothing on paper. Become unemployed. Bang! Free health care, Free cell phones! Unemployment checks! Energy assistance payments! A snap card! Shirt! What am I working so hard for? Why deal with the stress when I can live free and worry about nothing? There is so much free shirt available! As my family is shrinking I'm am seriously tempted to do this just to see if I can. I'm thinking....I can! Yes we all can!!

Obama 2012! and 2016 for a 3rd term!!! The Constitution is outdated! Update that shirt!!

P.S. IRS, I'm only joking.

liberator100 writes:

Klaus, can you vote? If you can, then the bet is on!

26yearsonmarco writes:

Klaus,

Are we to assume from this remark of yours that you are not a U.S. Citizen???

"What has one with the other to do. I bet just with seriously Americans. You are not on my list.
..."

Sparky100 writes:

Obamas list of credits of the last 4 years.
23 million unemployed.
43 straight months of 8+% unemployment.
45 million on food stamps.
Black poverty at record highs.
The middle class has lost 40% of its net worth under Obama.
Black youth unemployment over 50%.
Hispanic unemployment at 11.3%.
Food prices up 15% under Obama.
Gas prices doubled under Obama.
Obama has the worst job creation record since 1945.
Obama recovery the worst in 75 years.
Median household income declines $4,300 under Obama.
Average family health insurance up $1,500 under Obama and rising.
Obama’s grown the federal bureaucracy’s “market share” of GDP from 19% to 24% in only 4 years.
Added $6 trillion to our debt more than all presidents. COMBINED.
Presided over only US credit downgrade.
Not to mention the bailout failures, false promises and hidden documents. Where did all that Wall Street money go??
OB losing by 9% no problem.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Klaus,
We are just shy of 47 million Americans on food stamps today. In 2008 when Obama took office it was 31 million. The only way we get to 100 million is 4 more years of "yes we can"! I know your boy Obama can do it! The R&R ticket wants to trim the program. Boooo!

Klaus, your other boy super mario is going to save the Euro tomorrow. I don't think your fellow Germans are going to like the way he does it? Will they go along with it? I don't know? How much longer until the Germans jump off the Titanic? They will, I'm just not sure how. Returning to the Mark will lead to the problem the Swiss are having with the Franc, a rapidly appreciating currency. That will make German manufacturing less competitive.

We are living in interesting times. History is repeating (at least rhyming) around the globe. I'm very anxious to see how it plays out this time. One thing is certain. Everything the boom generation believes to be reality is going to come to an abrupt and sobering end.

Greedy, power hungry politicians, central banks playing games with currency markets, and bond markets believing they are bigger than the market itself has never, ever in the history of world ended in anything but disaster.

August8 writes:

in response to Sparky100:

Obamas list of credits of the last 4 years.
23 million unemployed.
43 straight months of 8+% unemployment.
45 million on food stamps.
Black poverty at record highs.
The middle class has lost 40% of its net worth under Obama.
Black youth unemployment over 50%.
Hispanic unemployment at 11.3%.
Food prices up 15% under Obama.
Gas prices doubled under Obama.
Obama has the worst job creation record since 1945.
Obama recovery the worst in 75 years.
Median household income declines $4,300 under Obama.
Average family health insurance up $1,500 under Obama and rising.
Obama’s grown the federal bureaucracy’s “market share” of GDP from 19% to 24% in only 4 years.
Added $6 trillion to our debt more than all presidents. COMBINED.
Presided over only US credit downgrade.
Not to mention the bailout failures, false promises and hidden documents. Where did all that Wall Street money go??
OB losing by 9% no problem.

I love your list but it does leave off a couple of important issues:
The most polorizing President ever.
The most untruethful and arrogant ever
I sincerely don't think he likes white people
Cares nothing about the constitution.

Just a few more !!!

Sparky100 writes:

I would have made the list longer, just giving Klaus time to build a rebuttal. I know it's all Bushs fault.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

Klaus,
"Your Boy" is a slang term. In context it means that Obama is the one you favor, you team. It has nothing to do with the KKK or the Nazis. Freely elected? Maybe?

So that's why Germany won't leave the Euro? I guess it will be better for the Germans to let the rest of Europe drag them into the abyss with them. I doubt it. They will leave.

How do you figure George Bush is responsible for 30+ years of unmitigated credit expansion and Government spending not only in America but around the world? He wasn't.

The education system in this country and around the globe must have been in ruins for the last several decades. None of you (60 and over) can read the writing on the wall. You all believe Romney or Obama will keep the ship from sinking. History says you'll be wrong.

You say there is only one winner in 2012. I say there will be no winners among the American people. Only the politicians win.

Klaus, I hope you are in good health. You only need to last another 5 years or less to see that I am right. I'm taking the under on the 5 years.

While nobody really knows who wrote the following and the US is really a Republic (not anymore) not a Democracy it rings true and we are near the end stage in my opinion.....

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to selfishness;
From selfishness to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.

1Paradiselost writes:

"If you want a you’re-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket,”

Clinton continued. “If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility — a we’re-all-in-this-together society — you should vote for Barack Obama

He ripped Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, for suggesting that Obamacare would take $716 billion from Medicare — the same amount called for in the Wisconsin Congressman’s budget plan.

“It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did,” Clinton said scathingly.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Klaus,
Say what you like. We all know Obama is your boy. Or put another way. He is your man. He is your team. I guess this can be chalked up to our difference in age. No I do not insult anyone here very often, if ever. I actually may be the best friend you have on this here comment page. Only because we can agree to disagree.

If I had a viable dog in this fight and it was a male. That would be my boy, regardless of race. If female, my girl. Unfortunately I have no dog in this fight. Romney is not "my boy". Nor is Obama. I'll wait until 2016. I will have a team to vote for by then.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

I wouldn't call it a surrender. I'm just capable of having a debate without being emotionally attached to one party or the other. I see both parties for what they are. Both parties have been doing exactly what every other Government in history has done. Seek power over the people. Human Nature. There is no way to change it. History will repeat itself as it always does. Maybe history and mathematics are irrelevant now? Somehow I doubt that will be the case.

August8 writes:

in response to Sparky100:

I would have made the list longer, just giving Klaus time to build a rebuttal. I know it's all Bushs fault.

Ok, I see he has and it reads like a disjointed novel?
Can someone tell me if Klaus is a yard man or a bag boy? It would also appear that he may be a heavy drinker, curious minds would like to know?

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

Klaus,
Convince me to vote for Obama. Tell me why I should? Give me a solid reason. I have no reason to vote for either party. I believe they both will fail. Tell me what Obama has done to further the American Constitution! The American dream for hard working people. Give me a reason to vote!

RayNetherwood writes:

Yes, and during the late 30's and 40's, it was "HEIL UNSER BELIEBTE FUEHRER ADOLPH HITLER".

Klaus, your GREAT OBAMA gibberish makes you sound like a goosesteeping dumdum.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

"GREAT PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA" That is why I should vote? For Obama? Are you joking?

I think that's what people were told when Hitler came to power? That he was great, or something like that?

Maybe the Germans were told Hitler isn't too bad? Not as bad as that Nero guy who burned Christians for street lights? Lesser of two evils type thing.

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