New York magazine political writer John Heilemann and his co-author Mark Halperin appeared on the PBS NewsHour on Monday to discuss their book on the 2012 election, “Double Down.” PBS anchor Gwen Ifill asked, “I wonder if Americans aren`t just sick of this and to the degree that elections never end. Do they ever end? Or are they a constant, not just the elective process, but the whole idea of choosing and judging our leaders?”
Heilemann warned against Barack Obama being a lame duck already, when the country shouldn’t “give up a reelected president” with a “huge mandate” (er, a mite less than four percent):
HEILEMANN: I think it is a little bit worrying when you see someone like Barack Obama come out of the 2012 race, and people talk about him having, you know, a nine-month window in his whole second term to get anything done, before midterm politics first and then presidential politics second will blow everything else out of the water and make it impossible to get business done in Washington, D.C.
The country faces huge problems. And those problems have been really hard to solve for a long time. To give up a reelected president who won with a big mandate, in the sense of a big Electoral College margin, five million votes in the popular electorate, to give that person nine months to get a budget deal done, to implement health care reform, to get immigration reform done, that seems like a very narrow window to have a time for governance. And that is one part of it that does seem a little bit unfortunate to me.
But earlier in the segment, Heilemann underlined another reason Obama may be having trouble with his legacy: the electorate now doubts his honesty and his competence:
HEILEMANN: I think that people voted for, to a large extent -- if you think about the end of the election, Mitt Romney won in the exit polls on almost every metric, except for the metric that turned out to matter most, which was the ones that was, who cares about people like me?
So they -- people voted for President Obama to a large extent because they liked him and they trusted him to identify with their concerns, with the real lives of real people for most American voters. I think even a year later, with all the problems President Obama has had, people still believe that he has their best interests at heart.
What they have lost is a sense that he is competent to implement the policies that he`s put forward. And I think that is the biggest problem with what has happened with him with the health care plan, is that people have lost faith in his ability to actually get the job done. And to some extent, they have lost faith in his honesty and his candor with them. And those are huge problems for him going forward over the next -- course of the next three years. They still feel he sympathizes with him, but they`re not as willing to put their faith in him as they had been in the previous four years.