Does Barack Obama Actually Want to Be Re-Elected?

The president's lack of enthusiasm jeopardizes his campaign.

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President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks in Washington, D.C.

In observing the first full month of the 2012 presidential election one question continues to creep up: Does the challenger Mitt Romney simply want the job more than the incumbent President Obama?

Watching the president speak, or to be accurate, campaign, on issues from the "Buffett rule" to Mitt Romney's career at Bain Capital to gay marriage, he simply does not appear to be engaged or enthusiastic. Why is that?  

First and foremost, the trajectory of his own presidency has forced Obama into a defensive mode he is not comfortable with. He ran in 2008 on hope and change and had visions of being a transformational figure and president once elected. He unquestionably imagined a re-election campaign similar to his experience in 2008 and the re-election Ronald Reagan, whom Obama has cited as a model, won in a sweeping fashion in 1984.

[Check out editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

However, a pesky issue prevented that from happening—reality. That reality is what this president has been forced to run on. Unemployment above 8 percent for over three years, a crawling GDP, and approval ratings which are still below disapproval in most polls (see the latest Gallup, Rasmussen, and ABC/Washington Post polls).

Moreover, President Obama's team in the White House and at Campaign HQ in Chicago have worked to fashion the president into someone he simply doesn't believe he is—a regular politician. His team has kept the president from talking about the one victory he treasures the most—passage of the Affordable Care Act. Instead the Obama team has been concentrated on issues that either barely move the needle (Buffett rule), are negative (attacking Mitt Romney over Bain Capital), or are brought up at a time inconvenient for the president (gay marriage).

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Finally, the president is facing a very formidable opponent in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney has exhibited almost perfect consistency in concentrating on the economy without being distracted either by the president's attacks or attempts to divert the discussion to social issues. Romney has also swiftly united the Republican constituency behind him while being a fundraising machine. Counting the fundraising by PACs, committees and campaigns, President Obama actually trails Mitt Romney in funds raised.

This presidency has not turned out to be what either the electorate or the elected wanted it to be, that is a certainty. If the president continues to pursue re-election in the same half-hearted manner, a one term presidency will be a certainty as well.

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