I never liked mid-terms. You always figured that you barely had learned enough to take a test. But now some professor was going to make it worth half your grade. I always thought mid-terms were a good time to bail out of a course that was heading for disaster, which in my case happened more times than I’m willing to admit.
Barack Obama is heading for disaster at his mid-term in November. But since he can’t drop the course, he can try changing it, even though it’s a little late. There are some things that cannot be reversed in two months.
For one, unemployment. There is clamoring for another stimulus package, but even if enacted quickly, it would have little or no impact on the jobless rate.
The President is now the Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s longest-running war, and indeed Afghanistan is becoming increasingly unpopular.
He did pass his health care reform, but spent valuable political capital and time and came away with little public appreciation.
Obama weighed in on the Mosque issue, and stumbled badly on a topic that should have provided a great leadership moment for him.
His approval rating is at an all-time low.
So what to do?
The President has decided to take the offensive, once again hitting the campaign trail. It’s where he seems most comfortable, the place of his greatest triumphs. And indeed, Obama is about as natural on the stump as any politician has ever been. But what about the message?
The President seems to be going through the motions, almost resigning himself to defeat. Indeed, it appears the only question now is just how big the loss will be. There are those who already predict an "historic" blowout, one that will sweep the Senate and the House into the hands of the Republicans.
But now the good news for the administration: the historic rout could sweep the Senate and the House into the hands of the Republicans. Good news, you say? Perhaps.
Ask Bill Clinton. The 1994 mid-terms, which were supposed to signal the end of his administration, instead led to its turnaround, and sent a wakeup call to the nation’s 42nd President. The Republicans over-played their strong hand, and two years later ran an incredibly weak candidate for President (the respectable but unelectable Bob Dole).
So GOP control of both houses is not necessarily a bad thing. It would allow the Democrats to blame the "ruling" party. Since partisanship has gridlocked the nation’s capitol, it’s unlikely that anything will get done anyway.
A big defeat would let the President run for re-election as a kind of underdog, a place where he flourished in 2008. And despite a host of possible candidates, the GOP does not have an obvious presidential front-runner for 2012. For now, their leader on the Hill, John Boehner, is famous for his tan, and not much else.
So even if he fails the mid-term, President Obama could still ace the course. Maybe he should consult that great turnaround consultant, Bill Clinton.