President Obama—ever one to toot his own horn—recently surmised that he would’ve defeated Donald Trump and secured a third term if he had chosen to run.
In related news, First Lady Michelle Obama offered her own commentary on the present state of affairs: “We are feeling what not having hope feels like.” Apparently, President Obama could have once more been the “hope” candidate (I assume he would drop the “change” part since he’s been the guy in charge for eight years).
First things first—if President Obama had run for a third term, would he have won?
Probably. In 2008, he won almost 70 million votes and smashed John McCain by about 10 million votes. In 2012, though bruised by Obamacare, President Obama still defeated Mitt Romney handily by 5 million votes. President-elect Trump, on the other hand, ran about three million votes behind both Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s 2012 numbers.
Let’s distinguish, however, between candidate Obama and President Obama. Candidate Obama was a very effective orator and put together a political coalition that virtually guaranteed victory. His approval ratings as president, on the other hand, were mediocre at best throughout his presidency. His sky high ratings in 2008 came crashing down with the Obamacare debacle and only ticked up for a bit in 2011 and again in 2013 after his re-election. His victory in 2012—despite his mediocre ratings at the time—was likely a result of his political talent as a candidate and Mitt Romney’s corresponding lack of talent.
Set against the backdrop of a very ugly presidential race between two unappealing candidates in 2016, President Obama’s approval ratings finally ticked back up. This recent trend says more about Hillary Clinton’s abilities as a candidate than Obama’s as president. If President Obama ran for a third term, his lofty rhetoric would likely again trump his pedestrian record and the turn-out from urban centers, in particular, would help him flip a number of battleground states back into his column.
This leads to our second question: would a third term lead to renewed or increased hope for Americans?
Looking again at his approval ratings during his first two terms—it is again necessary to distinguish between candidate Obama and President Obama. As candidate Obama, he promised hope and people believed him. As President Obama, he left the American people decidedly unimpressed. His signature achievement—Obamacare—was a partisan boondoggle that was never popular. He mocked and patronized his opponents. Rather than appealing to the best in Americans—like Ronald Reagan—he set us against one another.
The present state of the union is not strong or united. Health care premiums are skyrocketing. Small town America has been forgotten and forsaken in its steep cycle of economic decline. The Middle East is a mess—largely due to our president’s lack of realism and resolve. Our enemies no longer fear us; our allies no longer trust us. If the legislative branch refuses to buckle to our president’s vision of a more enlightened America, he crafts and executes new policies through executive order. With a third term, one remaining roadblock to his excesses—the Supreme Court—could finally be reshaped in his own image.
President Obama—because of his unique political talents—could very well win a third term, as he believes. But make no mistake about it, a third presidential term would not come with hope for a united America, promised in 2008. Rather, for a third time, the soaring rhetoric of hope and change would come crashing down upon the heads of the American people.
I’ll admit it—despite my strong reservations about Donald Trump’s character and convictions, I voted for him. Why? I couldn’t bear the thought of America bearing the Obama burden for another four years. Whether he or a successor won—America would lose.
Stephen Roberts is an Army Reserve chaplain, writer and evangelist living near Milwaukee. He is a regular contributor to Political Storm.