Obama lucked out.
In a crop of potential candidates with shoddy track records, a Republican primary that's being run as if it were a beauty pageant, and the GOP uncomfortable with the most liberal of the candidates (Ron Paul), it could be seen as though President Obama could breeze into the campaign season, and come out with a landslide victory.
Unfortunately for him, looks can be deceiving and it's a long way to November. He is going to need to fight tooth-and-nail, up hill both ways, if he wants to come out on top this year, and it's because of a simple, incorrectly perceived notion: He didn't get it done.
Sure, Bin Laden was captured and killed on his watch, and he brought the troops back from Iraq, but none of that is going to matter in the coming months because Obama ran on a campaign of change, one of economic reform and job creation. The issue he and his campaign leaders are dealing with is that, though things certainly have started to change since he took office, it's not fast enough. All throughout 2008, he warned Americans that this was going to take time, and he was going to be acting as someone in it for the long haul, but Americans are notoriously impatient and in a 24-hour news cycle that cuts speeches into sound bytes, all anyone heard was "Change," not "Patience."
If a Republican candidate wins the election, it won't be a huge shock--unless it's Newt Gingrich, which would be a complete mind-blower, perhaps even the moment the world hears the heralding trumpets of the apocalypse. However, it won't necessarily be because the Republican candidate won; it will be because Obama lost.
The race is his to lose, and it's possible that he will lose it based on prior campaign promises that are now seen as "broken" promises instead of "pending" promises. The optimistic rhetoric Senator Obama spoke in 2008 compared to the actions of President Obama in between then and 2012 could be his undoing, and if the Republican candidate plays that card, hard, this race could slip into uncertain territory, quickly.
Also, not helping the President is that he can't say the Republicans opposed him so thoroughly that it rendered him ineffective. While it's true that Representative Boehner and other prominent members of the GOP blocked him left and right, it doesn't matter. If Obama takes that path, it will make him sound like a petulant child who didn't get what he wanted. It is unbecoming of a President to blame his issues on others, regardless of whether or not it is warranted.
The biggest thing he needs to do--really the only thing that he can
do--is convince the American people that he's playing a long game, and he needs to start hammering that home now, and not singing Al Green songs at the Apollo like he did on January 19, because there's something no one is really talking about, the giant elephant sitting quietly in the corner of the room, and it could be the thing that ends his political career four years early:
Obama isn't battling against the Republican candidate. He's battling against his former self.