No plan survives contact with the enemy and the 2012 election is a perfect example with an unusually large number of possible electoral game changers. Most of the game changers will affect Barack Obama more than Mitt Romney.
As the incumbent President Obama is like a Kewpie doll in a shooting gallery. He will be affected by issues that range from the European economic situation to war and peace in various parts of the world plus domestic political considerations.
Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities that can and will spring up over the next five months as we close in on November 6th. Remember as the incumbent President, Obama and his record can and will be the primary issues of the campaign.
Let’s look at the European economic situation first. Looming over the eurozone is the possibility that Greek voters will continue to either be hamstrung over the bailout of their economy or will vote outright for anti-bailout parties. In this situation, two out of three possibilities could push Greece out of the eurozone.
This action might cause the Greek economy completely collapse and push the other weak economies, particularly Spain and Italy, along with them. Greece has a relatively small economy but Spain and Italy are much large and their collapses would cause bigger ripples in the European economic pond.
How does this impact the United States, you might ask? The weakening European economies are already causing problems with U.S. exports which in turn weakens the general U.S. economy. Who gets blamed for this downward spike? You got it, the U.S. President, of course.
“The thing that would damage us is if investors panic as a result of the Euro exit and you saw the stock market decline and hit U.S. wealth and capacity to spend,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior economic advisor to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign. “This election is going to be about the economy. People are informing their views starting about now. We’re in the three to six months that really matter.”
Linked to the European economic difficulties are unresolved problems in the U.S. financial sector. Anyone who thinks that the financial sector in the United States is healed and no longer poses a risk to the economy is sadly mistaken.
“A number of American banks have massive piles of toxic assets. Whether it’s Europe or anything else, if something happens to erode their financial positions, it could lead to a very negative spiral,” said Mike Lux, a Democratic strategist. “I think there’s a lot more danger about the too-big-to-fail banks getting in trouble. The one I’m worried about the most is Bank of America.”
An area that Barack Obama has little control over is the Middle East. This volatile region is sowed with a minefield of deadly possibilities for sudden and fatal crises. The big one is Iran where there seems to be some movement toward negotiation, although we’ve been down this road before. The Iranians are skillful delayers who can continue to buy time until, presto, one day they reveal the existence of a dangerous nuclear arsenal pointing at their neighbors.
Coupled with the nuclear situation is the recently revealed ‘war by other means’ that the United States and Israel seem to be conducting against both the Iranian nuclear program in particular and their military-industrial complex in general. The recent revelations are sure to touch a nerve with the Iranians, exposing their weaknesses to the rest of the world. If they lash out with assassinations and bombings, Obama will be blamed.
Of course, there is always the possibility that Israel will decide that Obama has been playing a delaying game with them and choose to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. This in turn would precipitate an Iranian attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz and choke of oil exports to the rest of the world.
The United States would be forced to respond with naval and air units too break the blockade and keep the strait open. Even a brief stoppage of oil through the strait would precipitate a world economic crisis, complete with skyrocketing gas prices.
If you think that Iran is our only volatile situation in the Middle East, think again. We currently have a laundry list of potential explosive situations that could rebound against us. We have the on-going situation in Egypt which will be resolved after the election. Or it won’t and if the wrong candidate wins, in the eyes of the street mobs, will start another round of street violence.
Then we have another festering situation in Syria where the Assad regime continues to butcher its own citizens, much to the disgust of the rest of the world. America’s inaction serves to make Obama look weak. These are not the optics that Team Obama wants going into the last five months of the campaign.
Many veteran political pundits and consultants point out that foreign affairs seldom drives an American Presidential election. But there are dramatic changes in American politics over the last four years. Barack Obama became the first black President with a big victory. He then proceeded to try to change America but was rebuffed with a self-admitted shellacking in 2010.
He currently is running even with his challenger, Mitt Romney, with under 50% in most polls. These particular game changers are in the area of foreign affairs but they directly affect the U.S. economy. We seem to have seen a paradigm shift in electoral politics in the United States.
In tomorrow’s post we’ll look at electoral game changers in domestic affairs.