Political incumbents haven't been faring well in Europe, with the defeat of French President Nicolas Sarkozy the latest example. But in America the situation may be different.
President Obama's deft use of the powers of his office have boosted his prospects for re-election, and his high visibility at the G-20 international economic conference this week is adding to his positive image.
With his participation in the Group of 20 meetings in Mexico, Obama is showing that he knows how to be president, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney is still trying to prove that he is up to the job.
On Monday, Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to help the United States and its allies push Syria's ruling party out of power as a way to end the spiraling violence there. Putin didn't immediately go along, but Obama called their discussion "candid and thoughtful," and he won points for making his case directly to the Russian leader. Obama is expected to move now to an even bigger problem as he meets with other G-20 leaders to help resolve the European debt crisis.
Obama's announcement Friday of a new immigration policy also enhanced his political position. Obama's announcement dominated the news just as Romney was starting a bus tour of small-town America that he hoped would show that he can connect with everyday people.
The president's decision was to issue an executive order to soften deportation rules covering young people who entered the United States illegally with their parents. Obama's announcement not only appealed to Hispanics, a key element of his 2008 coalition, it also demonstrated how an incumbent can change the subject and place his opponent at a disadvantage on a moment's notice. Romney managed only a vague response, arguing that Obama's plan seemed politically motivated and was a weak response to a problem that demands a comprehensive solution.
Obama's effective use of the presidency's bully pulpit to gain positive publicity has become a pattern. Earlier this spring, he marked the one-year anniversary of the death of terrorist Osama bin Laden by making a dramatic visit to Afghanistan to meet with U.S. troops. The trip gained widespread attention and underscored one of Obama's national-security successes--ordering the military raid that ended in bin Laden's death.
Of course, there are drawbacks to incumbency for Obama. Most notably, he bears the brunt of criticism for the weak economy and a tepid record of job creation. But as he showed in the past week, he has some powerful tools that can make a difference.
Ken Walsh covers the White Hose and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.