US Economy Likely to Determine Obama's 2010 Agenda

President Barack Obama visiting a U.S. factory
President Barack Obama visiting a U.S. factory


Kent Klein

As his first year in office nears an end, U.S. President Barack Obama is gearing up for his second.  The nation's economy, the war in Afghanistan and November's congressional elections may determine whether the president is able to advance his agenda. 

President Obama spent much of 2009 trying to heal a sick economy and promoting his administration's economic recovery plan.  And with many seats in Congress up for election in November 2010, Nathan Gonzales, the political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, believes the president will spend much of the coming year the same way.

Nathan Gonzales
Nathan Gonzales

"The worst thing that could happen for the president and the Democrats is for the economy to continue to deteriorate and they get blamed for it," said Nathan Gonzales. "If both those things happen, it could be catastrophic results on election day."

Recent economic reports show that the American economy is starting to recover.  But the unemployment rate has also topped double digits for the first time in 26 years.

Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie says many Americans blame Mr. Obama for the high jobless rate.

"And they will see President Obama's higher taxes, more spending, more debt, more government intervention in our economy, in the banks, in the auto industry, in health care and in energy as largely responsible for that lack of job creation," said Ed Gillespie.

Mr. Obama has not actually raised taxes. And his supporters say he has prevented further job losses. Robert Borosage is co-director of the Campaign For America's Future.

"What you have got is a president who has tried to do big things that are important to the country," said Robert Borosage. "And you have got an economy that his recovery plan has kept from being much worse and that will be growing."

Turning the tide in the Afghanistan war will likely be another major priority for President Obama in 2010.  Violence in Afghanistan is mounting, U.S. public support for the war is slipping and lawmakers in Mr. Obama's own party have criticized his plan to send tens of thousands more troops.  Political editor Nathan Gonzales says with Congressional elections looming in November, Mr. Obama is under pressure to show results. 

"President Obama needs to show that he has a plan for Iraq and Afghanistan, that he is implementing it, and that it is working," he said.

Former Republican chairman Ed Gillespie agrees that the president faces a difficult situation in Afghanistan.

"When you are president of the United States, they do not send you the easy decisions; they send you the hard decisions," he said. "By the time a decision gets to your desk, it is a hard decision.  And I think President Obama has seen now the difference between running for the presidency and serving in the presidency."

Besides Afghanistan and the economy, Mr. Obama also has other domestic concerns to consider - immigration policy, climate change legislation, and creating jobs in the clean energy industry.

Nathan Gonzales sees the election campaign getting in the way of the president's major initiatives.

"Going into 2010, it is going to be more difficult to get controversial legislation done, because Democrats in the House and in the Senate are looking at their own re-elections," said Gonzales.

Many of Mr. Obama's initiatives, such as health care reform, will not begin to show results until well after the November elections.  David Frum, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says Americans are losing patience.

"None of us know what is going to happen in 2010, and maybe this will all pay off in the future," said David Frum. "But it sure ain't [is not] paying off now."

Yet Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future says voters will understand that Mr. Obama is working in their best interests.

"I think if the president keeps fighting for reforms that are clearly about where the country needs to go, he will benefit and Democrats will benefit," he said.

The results of the November Congressional elections, and the fate of Mr. Obama's presidency, may once again hinge on his powers of persuasion.

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