I predict that Barack Obama wins 290 Electoral College Votes. Obama could lose a state like Ohio or Virginia and still win, but he cannot lose both. While the latest polling indicates that many toss-up states might break for Obama, I hedge my bets and predict that Romney and Obama split the swing states. However, Obama’s base is deeper than Romney’s, thus carrying the incumbent to victory.
Once November 7th is here and Obama knows what Congress looks like, again I predict no significant change with Democrats retaining the Senate and Republicans retaining the House, Obama will have to decide which of the following issues should be his biggest priorities. Strong arguments can be made for any and all of these, but political reality means some of the following will get short shrift over the next four years.
Sequestration (Also Known as Deficit & Debt Reduction)
How Obama manages America’s mounting fiscal problems ultimately determine whether the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee runs a campaign promising to continue Obama’s policies or runs away from Obama trying to distance himself from his predecessor. If that latter scenario plays out, then that means the next four years are very ugly.
What can Obama do?
Obama is best on the campaign trail. His best bet is to convince the public that a mix of tax increases – back to Clinton-era levels – combined with responsible spending cuts to the military and entitlement reform is the fairest and most responsible path to prosperity.
Now, that Obama has helped spread health care coverage to nearly all Americans, the next step is bringing down the cost of health care. As healthcare spending continues to gobble up too much of our spending, this is the one domestic issue that can have the largest effect on the budget. Without cost savings to health care, Obama will have to ask seniors to sacrifice more and be willing to negotiate on entitlement reform, especially Medicare. That will go over about as well as Mitt Romney at an NAACP convention, so it is actually better to take on doctors, hospitals and insurance companies again rather than taking on seniors in an effort to reduce the total amount spent on health care. Obama’s done it once, he can do it again.
Defense Spending and Foreign Policy
A core difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is the future of the military. The United States already “spends 58 percent of the total defense dollars paid out by the worlds’ top 10 military powers.” On top of this, Romney pledges trillions in additional new spending. How Romney would spend the additional defense monies is anybody’s guess as there is no doubt that Romney is the more bellicose of the two, but also the more unpredictable of the two.
Besides curtailing America’s entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama pledges more spending on drones and elite combat units and less for procurement on big ticket items like fighter jets. In a nutshell, Obama wants less military spending. Given the country’s fiscal imbalances, this is the only practical solution, unless taxes are dramatically increased. Because some politicians pander to the flag they confuse legitimate defense spending and excessive defense spending, making large, but smart cuts to the military’s budget difficult. As a result, expect (slightly) small, but smart defense budgets over the next several years.
History judges presidents by how well president’s respond to defining events like Depressions or wars. Just as important is how well a president navigates America’s relations with the rest of the world. In that regard, it is no wonder that Obama is the world’s choice to be America’s president. How Obama maneuvers around China and Iran will largely determine the grade history bestows upon him. If there is a fault with Obama’s foreign policy it is that he is reactive, not proactive the way a Theodore Roosevelt once was. Yet, given America’s pressing domestic needs that is really picking at nits.
Over the last four years, the Obama Administration has quietly increased deportations of illegal immigrants. This effectively neutralizes GOP complaints that Obama is soft on immigration. Yet, Obama’s support of the DREAM Act and announcement that his administration would no longer deport young immigrants who matched provisions of the DREAM Act showed that Obama recognizes the complexities of illegal immigration and will not punish those brought to this country while minors.
A strong, political reason to support immigration reform is that this is a wedge issue that divides the Republican Party. The pro-business wing of the GOP is at odds with the Tom Tancredo and Tea Party anti-immigrant wing of the party.
A second long-term reason to push immigration reform is for posterity’s sake. Historians will judge Obama on whether or not he grows the Democratic Party. Significant immigration reform allowing for undocumented immigrants to become full members of American society will likely lead to strong attachment to the Democratic Party for those people.
Over the next four years, how Obama tackles immigration, defense spending, China, Iran, and the deficit will determine whether the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee runs on or away from Obama’s record. No pressure.