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Hints Of Change? US Poll Post-Mortems

  • November 22nd, 2012
  • Posted by 7thmin

obama-reduced2.jpgCOMMENTARY: Hints of change had emerged a fortnight after the re-election of President Barack Obama (6.11.12), with reports of “constructive” budget talks between the administration and a conservative Congress.

It was early days, but betting changed on stock markets in response to the news, one key European index climbing 2.2% in a day, its first rise for two months.

That put a check on the line being tried out for a week, that nothing had changed: Mr Obama had only squeaked in at the polls; the House of Representatives was against him, the radical right wing of the Republican Party still ascendant on the conservative side; they could be counted on to block any agreement on the federal budget, as they had during the President’s first term.

As that budget featured fixed-term policies about to mature – tax cuts ending, spending rises committed- the whole world could end up going over a “cliff”, it was repeatedly said.

Would they make a “lame duck” out of Barack Obama?

gillard-obama.jpgIt’d been a very short honeymoon period after the win, since the round of congratulations from foreign leaders, and direct calls back to 13 of those, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia (9.11.12). They affirmed the “friendship and partnership” between the two countries, to be marked by “continuing close cooperation.” (Picture, Australian visit November 2011).

Some contradictory facts were already going against the “lame duck” thesis.

For one thing the Democratic President had had a clear-enough win. He took the popular vote 50.1% to 48.4% , (as against being a “minority President, e.g. George W Bush in 2000, with 47.87% -  trailing Al Gore, 48.38%). He’d won the state-by-state Electoral College vote on which the election is based, 332-206 (against the 2008 result, 365-173). He had won all seven of the closely-contested “battleground states” including the populous Florida and Ohio.

The outcome had been sign-posted over months by poll accumulators; a steady trend, but mostly within the universally assumed 3% margin of error, which blunted any temptation to base predictions on what those polls were showing. (It also kept alive reporters’ options of calling a “close finish, nothing-in-it”; all the better for keeping interest in the news).

Another fact contradicting the idea that the man was weak and would get nowhere: he had won a victory against stubborn joblessness in the range of 8%.

He was also, strategically, going into a second term. That would present an opportunity to attack an obstructionist opposition in mid-term Congressional elections, within two years. So, could the opposition, more exposed to risk, afford to be to bloody-minded this time around?

It’s a truism, too, that despite any drive to set up a party succession, the man himself, in a second term, is not under the same pressure to keep out of fights as when he is looking for re-election.

It looks like at least a chance, for a President, in a more secure position than before, to build up his record.


AAP, Sydney, “Gillard congratulates Obama on victory”, 9.11.12., (20.11.12).

Sarah Jones, “European Stocks Advance Amid U.S. Budget Talks Optimism”, Bloomberg. NY, 20.11.12., (21.11.12).

Craig Kanalley, “Who Won The Popular Vote In 2012?”, The Huffington Post, NY, 7.11.12., (21.11.12).

USA Today, Tyson’s Corner Va., “Obama returns from Asia to face budget, Mideast”, 20.11.12.|newswell|text|Local%20News|s, (21.11.12).

Mary Watkins and Vivianne Rodrigues, “Stocks stabilise as budget talks begin”, FT, London, 20.11.12., (21.11.12).

WSJ, NY, “Budget Talks Marked by Slow Pace”, 20.11.12., (21.11.12).