In the re-election of 1996, Bill Clinton realized that it was “the economy, stupid” that held the secret to his success. For Barack Obama in 2012, that will still be the reelection mantra. But there are several other key reasons that will also be important in Democratic reelection success.

Obama won in 2008 because he offered hope and change packaged with a refreshing sense of intelligence after eight years of Bush.  He benefited from his charisma and speaking ability, as well as a disastrous economy.  A black political savior was unique in American politics at a time when something different was needed.  He needs to show that the hope entrusted to him has come to fruition.

First, Obama must show that the economy has indeed improved, or at least is improving significantly for a majority of Americans.  He promised he would fix the economy during his first election campaign.  Is he hasn’t by 2012, he will be exactly what he predicted he could be if he failed—a one-term president.

Second, the hope and promise of change for a better America has to endure.  But hope and expectation always look better as ideals than in the harsh light of reality.  Some of the luster of Obama’s first campaign could well be gone by 2012.  Certain  commentators have speculated that the race card will no longer be working in Obama’s favor for the next election.  Also, his racial benefit could be diminished if Republicans are able to nominate a minority candidate.  And our nation’s undercurrent of racism could resurface in an environment of disappointment.  If the economy is still waning and hope is gone, so is Obama.

Third, average Americans are getting tired of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They finally want to see some progress in putting an end to our commitment in Iraq and an end in sight for Afghanistan.  If either war is still escalating by 2012, that will be a political liability for the Democrats.  However, this could be the least important of the three issues since the Republicans will most likely be hawkish on the wars from a national security standpoint.

But ultimately, it comes down to paraphrasing the late Democrat House Majority Whip Tip O’Neill: all politics are local, and all local politics are about your pocketbook.

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