Life Exclusive
The race for the US presidency: The advantages of incumbency

Since 1968 when Richard Nixon was elected, only two elected presidents one Democrat and one Republican got one term, the rest of the presidents got two. The major difference between 2008 and 2012 is that the president will have to play defence instead of the offence— a skill in which Obama is really untested in

The Americans are a generous people. They like to give their presidents a second term and a second chance. Since 1968 (ten elections ago) when Richard Nixon was elected, only two elected presidents one Democrat and one Republican i.e. Jimmy Carter  and George Bush Senior got one term. The rest of the presidents got two. (That is Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George Bush). Further, even in the race for the Senate or the House of Representatives, incumbency is regarded as a huge advantage and a seat is regarded as ‘open’ only when an incumbent is not running. Typically a Senator or a Congressman will have multiple terms in the Senate or the House, which should mean that Barack Obama should start the 2012 race as the firm favourite. 

But the problem is that America is more polarized than ever before and this has led to a virtual gridlock since the mid-term elections of 2010 when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and closed the gap in the Senate and the Republicans seem to be hell-bent on destroying the Obama presidency even if that means undermining America.  

The economy is sluggish at best and though there are seven jobs reports to go before the election, every job report has “on edge of the chair” feeling about it—there is no certainty about where it will be next month and every disappointing jobs report invariably leads to a demand for quantitative easing from the Fed (Federal Reserve). For instance, after three strong job reports, where the economy grew by 2,00,000 jobs a month, the  March job report showed the economy  growing at 1,20,000 jobs—much less than expected. So the economy is sputtering at best and gas (petrol) prices at the pump are $4 a gallon and the world environment is anything but benign. And the troubles with Iran cast a long shadow on the recovery. The jobs lost during the great recession have still after three years not reached the pre-recession level. The US has lost more than 9 million jobs in the recession and has regained not more than 3 million.

The president is quite unpopular, his favourable rating at 47-1—that is less than 50%—which makes him vulnerable in an election. The unemployment rate is 8.2% and is stubbornly refusing to come down below 8%. On taking office, president Obama had promised an unemployment rate of less than 6% and his promise has fallen short. The deficit is ballooning—trillions of dollars have been added to the deficit under president Obama’s watch. Barack Obama will argue that it is the failed Bush/Republican policies that got them into trouble in the first place. The question that the voting public will ask is that “since you were at the helm for the last three years how can you blame Bush”. It could have been worse, the Republican candidate presumably Romney will argue that it can be better and if the Republican candidate can frame the debate as a referendum in Obama’s economic policies the president has a genuine problem. Only 20% of the population says that they are better off than four years ago. The 2008 candidate Obama was running against the failed policies of George Bush. The Republican candidate will run against the failed policies of Barack Obama. The two major differences between 2008 and 2012 (and there are many) is that the president will have to play defence instead of the offence. As every one knows playing defence in basketball or American football is a whole new game from playing offence and requires a different type of skill—a skill in which Obama is really untested in. And secondly the president is unlikely to have a major money advantage. He outspent John McCain several times over but with the new campaign finance judgment of the Supreme Court, which has unleashed the Super PAC, it is a real possibility that the president will be outspent. A super PAC run by Karl Rove is ready to splurge $200 million in favour of the Republican candidate. After all, the presumptive Republican nominee was the head of Bain Capital and billionaires always vote a Republican. 

(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier’s College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master’s in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)




Bharat S Adarkar

5 years ago

Well balanced, unbiased analysis, Harsh. Just one point - Gerald Ford too was in office for one (partial) term upon Nixon's resignation and chose not to rerun. Refer to:

Tata Motors, Aditya Birla, Bharti Airtel most reputed: Nielsen

Nielsen's Corporate Image Monitor has given highest rating to Tata Motors for its “innovative techniques, providing reliable products and striving for excellence”

New Delhi: Tata Motors has emerged as the most reputed company in India followed by Aditya Birla Nuvo and Bharti Airtel in a survey by Nielsen, a global information and measurement firm, reports PTI.

 The survey that tracked the reputation of 32 companies in India based on what they offered in terms of service levels, product quality, financial performance and talent pool, also featured Reliance Industries and Tata Steel among the top five.

Nielsen's Corporate Image Monitor has given highest rating to Tata Motors for its “innovative techniques, providing reliable products and striving for excellence.”

 The company was ranked second in the last year's list.

 Interestingly, Tata Steel dropped from the first position to fifth this year, while Wipro also slipped from fourth to seventh position.

 Other major corporates such as ITC, ICICI Bank and Hero MotoCorp Ltd are the new entrants in the list of top reputed names in the 11th Corporate Image Monitor survey that measures perceptions of the image and reputation of India's leading companies.

 “The Corporate Reputation Index is a testament to a brand's reputation, by people that matter most to it," Nielsen India executive director Dinesh Kapoor said.

For stakeholders, this implies they feel the brand is reliable and sustainable in difficult times, he added.

Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), Wipro and HDFC Bank also figured in the list of top firms.

 Over 1,700 respondents, consisting of stakeholders such as policy makers, influence groups, the financial community, investors, top level management across corporates, and the general consumer, were consulted for the survey.

 Nielsen said “certain 'excitement factors' such as innovation, pace of growth and the extent of media visibility also play a subliminal role in shaping reputations”.

 Respondents also outlined 'hygiene' factors or attributes for a company such as 'vision' or 'leadership' as 'must have' image drivers for a brand, it added.

 Over one in five respondents indicated that ITC and Tata Motors are the corporates seen most actively involved in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, followed by Aditya Birla Nuvo and HUL.

The survey covered the top listed companies of India across industries. The selection of companies for the survey is based on market capitalisation, sales and assets.


Govt plans $30 billion investment to develop airports

“Indian aviation industry has provided jobs to 1.7 million people and contributed 0.45% of the GDP,” Kalam said

New Delhi: Addressing the conference, former President A P J Abdul Kalam said aviation had played a key role in providing employment and made significant contributions to the GDP, reports PTI.

“Indian aviation industry has provided jobs to 1.7 million people and contributed 0.45% of the GDP,” Kalam said, adding that air transportation was growing rapidly in the country and would be sustained.

“There are 450 aircraft and 125 airports. Six metro airports are handling 70% of the traffic, which is leading to congestion, delays and wastage of precious jet fuel which leads to high pollution,” he said, adding that air traffic management has become an urgent issue to be resolved.

The former President said the aviation sector could promote health and spiritual tourism apart from general tourism.

Kalam also released a study about “Economic Impact of Delhi Airport”, conducted by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER).

According to the study, Delhi airport operations contributed 0.45% (Rs 294.7 billion) to the national GDP and its contribution in Delhi's GDP was 13.35%.

“By 2020, the contribution is likely to reach Rs 909.5 billion (0.7% of the national GDP) and 22.2% of Gross State Domestic Product of Delhi,” the study said.

Delhi airport's operation sector contributed in 15,78,000 jobs, of which 64,000 were directly related to airport operations, 4,52,000 were indirect and 10,52,000 were the induced impact through tourism and investment, it said.

The construction activities at the Delhi airport contributed for 6,14,000 jobs of which 35,000 was direct contribution while 5,79,000 were indirect jobs, it said.


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