, Newburyport, MA


May 10, 2014

Shribman: Long term vs. short term


At the same time, the public remains skeptical of Obamacare, and the Republicans remain convinced it can be an important issue in both this year’s midterm congressional elections and in the 2016 presidential election.

-- The Kennedy worry, applied to 2016: What can the Democrats do to make Americans vote for them, given the tepid economy?

A century ago, it was not unusual for parties to hold the presidency more than two consecutive terms; the Republicans did it for three between 1921 and 1933 and for four from 1897 to 1913, and the Democrats for five between 1933 and 1953. Since then, only once (from 1981 to 1993, through Ronald Reagan’s two terms followed by George H.W. Bush’s single term) has a party exceeded two terms.

The challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or any other Democrat faces in the next presidential election is that the party nominee will be portrayed as offering a reprise of the two Obama terms.

Obama doesn’t have public support that remotely approaches that of Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, Reagan in 1988 or even of Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Indeed, Gov. Al Smith of New York, the Democrats’ 1928 nominee and an unlikely Coolidge admirer, said the 30th president was “distinguished for character more than for heroic achievement.”

By contrast, Obama’s disapproval ratings have exceeded his approval ratings for the past 49 weeks. That could turn around, but hardly anyone regards Obama as a political asset at this point in the political cycle. This is attributable not only to concerns about the economy, but also to worries that the president seems powerless in the face of the muscular foreign policy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The Democrats have another problem: If Clinton doesn’t run, the party has a weak bench, led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and followed by a handful of relative unknowns. Then again, Gov. Jimmy Carter and Sen. Barack Obama, not exactly household names, moved into the White House.

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