How should Obama run for re-election?

Updated

Let me finish tonight with the big question of how President Obama should run for re-election.

Should he run like Franklin Roosevelt did for his second term in 1936 - basically dividing the country between pro-New Deal and anti-New Deal? Tell the voters you’ve got a choice here: stick with the direction I’m taking the country in getting out of the Depression or go back to the Republicans and Big Business and the rich people who hate me.

Choose! You’re either with me or against me! You’re either for government, public, activist solutions to our problems or you’re for going back to letting the corporations and the banks go about their business and hope things will get better naturally.

Or, and this is the question confronting the people in the White House, win re-election the way Bill Clinton did.  Do something like he did in the last years of the 20th century when he made this big concession of saying the “era of big government is over,” when he signed onto the Republican-passed welfare reform bill, when he began working with Newt Gingrich in balancing the budget.               

As Humphrey Bogart said in “The African Queen,” you buy’s your ticket and takes your chances. There’s no way to be both Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the Second New Deal in 1936 and Bill Clinton in 1996. 

Both won, but each won a totally different way. One went left. One went down the middle.  Which way should Obama go?   Which way will offer the most compelling case for re-election next November?  What will attract a majority of voters to decide that an Obama second term, four more years of this Democrat controlling the White House and setting national direction, is a better bet than giving the Republican candidate a chance? 

You could say he should decide based on which Republican runs against him.  Maybe it would be smart to go left on Romney, to offer a sharper, surer sense of direction against a challenger who’s appears to lack a policy compass.  Maybe it would be smart to go down the middle facing a Rick Perry who will scare the middle your way to begin with.

But the problem for Obama is that, like a batter in the major leagues, by the time you know what pitch is coming your way, it’s too late to adjust your swing. So it would be best for Obama to make up his mind: hard left or down the middle. 

This coming Monday night we’re giving over the entire show to debating this question, with strong passions on both sides. We’re calling it “The Great Democratic Debate.” It’s going to be a hot night here - as it should be because this matters. 

Barack Obama

How should Obama run for re-election?

Updated