Election 2012: How another Obama term might be different
Would four more years of Obama change the Washington dynamic? A two-part election 2012 report profiles the stark differences and interesting similarities of a second-term Obama White House vs. a Romney White House – either of which would have to deal with a highly polarized Congress.
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"Obama can go to Republicans and say, 'Look, if you guys insist on this, then I'm going to hold firm, and we'll let the fiscal cliff be reached,' " says Mr. Ornstein.Skip to next paragraph
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Obama, in that case, could go to the American people and explain the situation – how another recession could result, but how he would also be empowered to address the nation's long-term debt and deficits, Ornstein says. And, he adds, expect Obama to make greater use of the bully pulpit this way.
It's also possible the lame-duck Congress would pass a short-term fix and leave solving the fiscal cliff to the new Congress. But the longer urgent fiscal issues eat into Obama's second term, the less time he would have for other priorities, beyond tax and entitlement reform.
Comprehensive immigration reform is one area where analysts see possibility for new action. If Obama is reelected, it's likely that Mr. Romney would have done poorly with the Latino vote – creating a GOP urgency to retool its approach to this fastest-growing segment of the electorate. Obama, too, is under some pressure to deliver with a reform that goes beyond his stopgap measure halting deportations of some young illegal immigrants.
Along with his inability to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, Obama's failure to enact immigration reform is his biggest unfulfilled campaign promise. In a recent appearance on Spanish-language Univision TV, journalist Jorge Ramos grilled Obama over the issue, and Obama said: "As you remind me, my biggest failure is that we haven't gotten comprehensive immigration reform done. So we're going to be continuing to work on that. But it's not for lack of trying or desire."
But given the urgent fiscal issues up first, it's not clear that Obama and the Republicans will get to it. Nor are prospects high for major initiatives on other lingering matters, such as climate change and energy policy. In an interview with Grist magazine, Obama's former climate czar, Carol Browner, suggested that a "sector-by-sector approach to reducing greenhouse gases" might have more success than one big bill.
The reality of second-term presidents is that they struggle to achieve big things and, by the last two years, end up focusing on foreign policy. Upon reelection, President George W. Bush declared he had a mandate to reform Social Security, and got nowhere. Obama may have to settle for protecting the biggest initiative of his first term: health-care reform. Or he may look at the legacy of Reagan, who did have a productive second term on both domestic and foreign policy, and swing for the fences once again.
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