Presidential dog days

President Obama says he is the underdog in the 2012 race for the White House.

If you buy that, I suppose you also believe Springsteen is just a struggling young rocker from Jersey, Congress is hard at work and I’m this year’s Nebraska Corn Queen. Come on. No sitting president, Democratic or Republican, is ever the underdog in a race for re-election. He may be challenged, troubled, befuddled, on the ropes or in a fix, but I repeat: He is never the underdog.

Consider these very un-underdogish facts: In 2008, Barack Obama beat the beagles out of John McCain in terms of fundraising, raking in and spending so much green that he was able to turn formerly critical red states like Indiana and North Carolina blue. This time around, he and the Democratic Party are once again racing into the cash dash like greyhounds, and breaking records along the way. Any real underdog would be sitting at a Sonic Drive-In right now, eating Tater Tots with his campaign director wondering if they had enough gas in the Prius to reach Ames.

This president, like any other, enjoys more free coverage on the Internet, radio, TV, in magazines and newspapers than any contender can ever hope for, no matter how much money he’s made from his pizza empire. And Barack Obama, like his predecessors, is shrewd about conducting the public’s business in a way that steals the limelight from his foes during their big campaign moments.

And there is this: Incumbents tend to win. Especially since 1900, the odds have said once a person settles into the Oval Office he is there to stay for two terms. Re-election is the rule; being kicked out is the exception.

To his credit, President Obama did not raise this notion of being the underdog on his own. It was tossed his way like a tennis ball for a golden retriever. He simply dashed out to snatch it up. But the political facts say presidents just can’t wear that collar; no more than a Doberman can claim to be a Chihuahua. For all his problems in the polls, Barack Obama remains the single most potent political player in America today — and he’s undeniably the big dog in this fight.

– CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”


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