By Jay Kim
Six months remain until the U.S. presidential election. Historically in U.S. politics, incumbent presidents running for reelection are without challengers from inside their parties. With President Obama as the sole candidate, the Democratic Party has accumulated plenty of campaign funds for him while watching the Republican candidates battle it out for nomination. Although it may seem an incumbent president has a much higher probability of winning than his opponent, it is not always the case. Only 13 out of the past 43 U.S. presidents were reelected, around just 30 percent.
Will President Obama be reelected? Most Koreans want this to happen, because he has been the friendliest president to Korea in U.S. history. Since I am a Republican, I want the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, to win. However, as a Korean, I do not dislike Obama, who thinks highly of Korea. For Korea’s sake, it may be better for Obama to win the election and stay in the White House for four more years.
Unfortunately, there are significant political obstacles in Obama’s path. The first of them is his lukewarm attitude toward North Korea. He has failed to show determination and leadership in handling North Korea, being too concerned about China’s reactions. The Republican Party considers North Korea’s missile launch, in defiance of continuous strong warnings from the U.S., as a direct challenge to Obama. A few days ago, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a presidential statement that strongly condemned North Korea for launching the long distance missile. The statement also expressed that stronger measures will follow additional provocations from North Korea.
The Security Council always issues such presidential statements. A statement ― without enforcement ― was issued again this time. With China protecting North Korea, issuing a warning seems to be the apex of the Security Council’s action against North Korea, as it has been in the past. The Republican Party is dissatisfied with Obama’s lukewarm attitude. A stronger measure is needed this time, such as taking away China’s veto power through a reform of the U.N. Security Council.
The second obstacle is the General Service Administration (GSA) scandal. GSA, which has 13,000 employees and a budget of $21 billion, spent $823,000 on its convention in Las Vegas. Dining expenses for the event were $146,527, which greatly exceeded the allowed cost of $30 per person. The administrator resigned amid criticism of wasting taxpayer dollars, and a congressional hearing will be held soon. It is interesting that Democratic Senator Durbin was the one who dug this out, and from the Republican Party, Representative John Mica, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, took on the hearing. The Republican Party will continue this hearing until the presidential election and use it to prevent Obama’s reelection.
The third obstacle is the federal budget, specifically, the debt ceiling. A full offensive from the Republican Party is expected, to be led by Romney this time. This was a difficult issue for Obama last year, a non-election year, but will be considerably weightier this year. This is because while about 60 Democratic lawmakers voted with Republicans on the budget last year, more of them show signs of joining Republicans on this issue as the federal deficit continues to grow. This will be testing trouble for Obama.
Finally, the fourth obstacle is the U.S. economy. The administration claims that the economy is getting better, but economic indexes show otherwise. In 2012, the U.S. economy is expected to grow by 2 percent, with the unemployment rate at 8 percent while the real estate market is still in recession. Furthermore, inflation rate will be at about 2 percent. It is questionable whether or not the nation will be satisfied with these statistics.
It is no exaggeration to say that the U.S. presidential election is determined by the economy. Clinton won a presidential election with the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid.” In this respect, this election won’t be an easy game for Obama. The Buffett Rule that Obama is pushing hard will cause intense controversy. Most Republican lawmakers think that the taxes raised from the Buffett Rule targets people who became rich through hard work. Obama’s road to reelection can only be extremely rough.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the KimChangJoon US-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com).