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Obama Faces No Shortage of Challenges in Second Term

Time Magazine has named President Barack Obama its “Person of the Year” for 2012, following a tumultuous year in U.S. politics. President Barack Obama won re-election after a hard-fought campaign against Republican Mitt Romney. But the president has no shortage of challenges awaiting him in a second term.

After a draining re-election campaign, President Barack Obama emerged victorious over Republican Mitt Romney and projected an upbeat approach to the next four years.

“With your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do, and the future that lies ahead," he said.

But the president had little time to enjoy his triumph. Obama quickly became involved in complicated negotiations with congressional Republicans to avert the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’. It is the combination of severe tax hikes and budget cuts that go into effect in January unless Congress and the president can reach agreement on a deficit-reduction plan.

And then in December, President Obama was once again called on to perform the role of national ‘healer-in-chief’ in the wake of the tragic school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. “We can not tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change," he said.

But as he looks ahead to his second term, Obama has a chance to start over, says former Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein. “People are giving President Obama a second chance, perhaps to validate the promise he made in 2008, which was fundamentally to transform Washington in the way we work together or not work together," he said.

After four years of campaigning against the president, it is also an opportunity for Republicans to make a fresh start.

Thomas Mann, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, said “The reality is it is not tenable simply for Republicans to stay in opposition for the whole second term of President Obama. If they are seen as the obstacle to doing anything to solve our problems, they are writing their own death certificate.”

Democrats made modest election gains in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and that could encourage compromise from Republicans.

Matthew Dallek, a historian with the University of California, said “And I think you will see a little bit more give (compromise) potentially from some members of the Tea Party, from some of the more hard-edged conservatives who realize that they might have to soften some of their rhetoric, some of their positions if they want to win office.”

Ken Duberstein says the months ahead could bring tough decisions on taxes and government spending, and might mean the president will demand concessions from his Democratic allies in Congress. “A major part of leadership is occasionally saying ‘no’ to your strongest allies and ‘yes’ to some of your fiercest opponents. You have to bring people together," he said.

President Obama will be officially sworn in for a second term on January 20, with the public Inauguration ceremony the following day.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.