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The Party Line is dedicated to examining regional issues and policies through the figures who give shape to them. These are critical, complex, and even downright confusing times we live in. There’s a lot to navigate nationally and in the Carolinas; whether it’s elections, debates on gay marriage, public school closings, or tax incentives for economic development. The Party Line’s goal is to offer a provocative, intelligent look at the issues and players behind the action; a view that ultimately offers the necessary insight for Carolina voters to hold public servants more accountable.

Obama Seems Ready For Election Year

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer

President Obama visited Raleigh to announce the creation of a $140 million consortium of universities and companies to focus on advanced manufacturing.

But the president seemed to acknowledge in his remarks that he does recognize the coming mid-term election year, and is willing to confront what should be a more challenging year than he faced in 2013.

With word that Public Policy Polling has the president’s approval rating in the state down to 40%, the continued drag on not just the president but those within his party is raising concerns ahead of the sixth-year itch that voters get against the president and his party.

Much was made that U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, one of the endangered Democrats in this year’s tough climate, wasn’t going to be appearing at the event with the president.  But the president took it in stride, even publicly thanking her at the event.

Especially noteworthy was when the president rattled off his administration’s accomplishments and mentioned the Affordable Care Act, there was a louder than expected positive reaction by the audience.

Getting into the meat of what was a relatively short speech, Obama pronounced this “a year of action” and challenged the Congress to step up.  But by all accounts, experts should expect a new record low in productivity from the legislative branch—as if 2013 wasn’t a new low itself. 

And if Congress doesn't act, or can’t, Obama announced “that I will—and today I’m here to act.” 

President Obama has a choice of whether he will pursue a path of what seems to be reality, recognizing that the only way he will get things done is to do it himself, or a path that is much more aggressive in pursuing a campaign-style mode.

Once presidents win re-election, they tend to move toward building their legacy and perhaps utilizing the presidential powers that are singularly theirs.  

But Obama may take the path less traveled by presidents, and that is to re-engage as if he was standing for election this November and join forces with Democratic members of Congress, especially senators, in the campaign battle to come.

With poll numbers that continue to show a weak-level of job approval, it is a risky strategy to pursue an aggressive, campaign-style approach.  But the ability to rally the base, raise the funds, and command the nation’s, and various state’s, media attention could be beneficial in an election where the most partisan of voters are likely to show up, while the middle may just ignore, or worse, not realize, there is an election going on this year.

The upcoming State of the Union may signal a White House that returns to its campaign mode for the true last ditch effort to shape the final years of the Obama presidency.  Taking the message ‘on the road’ to battleground states is just one indicator of what we can expect in the new election year.

Dr. Michael Bitzer is an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, where he also serves as the 2011-2012 Swink Professor for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and the chair of the department of history & politics. A native South Carolinian, he holds graduate degrees in both history and political science from Clemson University and The University of Georgiaââ