Barack Obama has always been popular around the world. But while the president’s support at home has ebbed considerably since the heady days of November 2008, he is still well-regarded abroad, as Dan Drezner discovered after giving a speech to a group of international institutional investors about the state of play in this year’s election.
Drezner encountered a surprising confidence among the investors that Obama will cruise to re-election. As Drezner notes, it was not as if the crowd of high net worth finance types was unfavorably disposed towards Mitt Romney; OWS this was not.
To explain this phenomenon, Drezner writes that when foreigners look at America under Obama they see a generally well-handled foreign policy (certainly one less abrasive than his predecessor) and an economy that, while growing tepidly, is still performing well compared to most developed countries.
In a letter addressed to “The Rest of the World”, Drezner makes the salient point that, well, none of this matters:
Take a look at these poll numbers about priorities for the 2012 presidential campaign, and try to find anything to do with international relations. There ain’t much. It’s almost all about the domestic economy.
See, most Americans don’t compare the U.S. to other major economies — they compare the U.S. now to, say, the U.S. of 2005. And things don’t look so hot based on that comparison.
Two of the last three presidential elections have been painfully close. Obama’s runaway 2008 victory can in large part be attributed to the widespread disdain of the Republican Party after eight years of George W. Bush, who left office as one of the most unpopular presidents ever.
Having said that, Obama does have a large cushion; he can afford to lose several states he won in 2008 and still win re-election. Nor should the benefits of incumbency be underestimated. The president can also rely upon a slick, battle-hardened campaign operation that has had much more time to prepare than has Team Romney.
But Mitt Romney will be a formidable challenger. Having sewn up the Republican nomination Romney has put the primary behind him and begun to make the traditional march towards the center. And unlike 2008 the Republicans will have enough financial firepower to match, if not exceed, their opposition.
Like Drezner, Via Meadia isn’t saying Romney is going to win. And at the moment at least, Via Meadia hasn’t decided whether as a matter of policy this site will endorse any presidential candidate, much less thought about which one we’d endorse. But the assumption that Romney is a long-shot outsider beggars belief. Drezner puts the odds of a Romney win at 50/50, and asks at the end of his post, ‘Am I missing anything?’
We don’t think he is.
Drezner has also been active lately defending the subject of political science from its detractors in Congress and the New York Times. At Via Meadia we are much more confident that smart and creative political scientists (and certainly Drezner) produce interesting work than we are that the discipline as a whole is likely to make the world a much better place. We sometimes wonder what the US Constitution would look like if it had been written by “qualified” political scientists with Ph.Ds and a solid body of peer reviewed published work behind them. We think it would probably stink in comparison with the current version — but that may just show how shortsighted we are.
But whether the good Dr. Drezner is using his formal training in political science or his informed intuition and sound common sense to make his analysis of the presidential election, he’s right. President Obama has been up a bit lately in the polls, but it’s still a very long road to November.