Obama Wields Power of Incumbency

Like presidents past, Obama uses official business to his political advantage.

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President Obama is deftly using the powers of incumbency as he seeks a second term.

One important advantage for Obama is that a president, using his bully pulpit, has the ability to dominate the news and drown out the opposition. This is likely to happen Tuesday when Obama speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. It's an international forum that isn't available to his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, who is after all simply a private citizen right now. Obama will be trying to widen a "stature gap" that nearly every president enjoys over his challenger by dint of the respect that the American presidency generates around the world.

Back home, Obama has been announcing initiatives and taking executive actions designed to show he is an active leader and an advocate of the middle class, and also to cultivate favor among his core constituencies.

Last Friday, Obama designated a scenic federal tract called Chimney Rock in southwestern Colorado, a key swing state, as a national monument, a move that will preserve 5,000 acres of land from development. His decision was popular among environmentalists and the tourist industry.

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Last month, the administration announced drought relief for farmers as Obama was campaigning in Iowa, another swing state.

In a move that was important to Latinos, Obama recently issued an order giving illegal immigrants a path to legal residency if they can show that their parents brought them to the United States as children.

And in August, the administration issued a complaint that China was violating international trade rules by subsidizing its automobile and auto-parts industries. The move was popular among many voters who work in the U.S. auto industry, including those in Ohio, still another swing state.

Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, told the New York Times, "The president is not going to put off what he believes are important actions, such as protecting jobs for American workers, until after the election. These decisions are made on the merits by professionals with the relevant policy expertise, are often months in the making, and always reflect the president's long-standing positions."

There are many other advantages to incumbency. As with his predecessors, Obama can mix official travel with campaigning, and then assign some of the "official" costs to the taxpayers. This saves his campaign money.

He can draw massive news coverage when he discusses matters of national security or issues of great domestic concern. And he has glamorous and impressive props at his disposal, including Air Force One and the White House itself.

And, as Romney is learning to his chagrin, Obama knows how to uses these assets to his best advantage.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com or on Facebook and Twitter.