A rough road ahead?


As Election Night fades into the rear-view mirror of history, there's a lot to suggest that taking down an incumbent President was going to be a tough feat. In modern history, Presidents almost always get a second term in office. Since FDR ousted President Hoover in 1932, only three challengers have unseated sitting Presidents: Carter, Reagan and Clinton.

But winning isn't always everything.

History shows that most two-term Presidents in modern history had things head downhill in their second terms. If they don't accomplish what they're after in their first term, they usually won't have much to brag about in their second term:

  • Truman had the Korean stalemate in his second term and he lost Congress to Republicans.
  • Eisenhower lost both houses of Congress in his second mid-term.
  • Johnson had Vietnam and urban riots explode in his second term.
  • Nixon had Watergate and devastating mid-term elections.
  • Reagan lost the Senate in his second mid-term, followed by Iran-Contra.
  • Clinton had Monica Lewinsky and left office as the economy soured and 9/11 neared.
  • Bush 43 lost Congress in his second mid-term and the economy tanked.

A number of challenges which Obama has deferred await him in a second term: continued stagnation in the economy, a looming deadline to make massive budget cuts, an out-of-control national debt, questions about the response to the Benghazi attacks, and continued problems with Iran and Syria.

Not only does he face problems for which he's offered no agenda, but he faces an opposition which came through election night in relatively good shape for party which lost a Presidential contest (which it lost by one of the smallest popular vote percentages in American history).

Republicans didn't lose seats in the Senate, avoided losses in the House and added to their majority of governorships. If the traditional second mid-term congressional losses hit in two years, Obama will likely end his tenure in the White House facing a Republican-controlled Senate and an even bigger GOP House majority.

As we predicted in 2008, sometimes losing can leave Republicans in a better position than they might initially realize. If they're smart, they'll consider this, plan accordingly and lay a careful game plan for the next four years. To do this, they need to carefully pick their battles (unlike the GOP leadership of the latter Clinton years), wait for some of the brewing problems of Obama's making to trap him (lots of those) and use their numbers in Congress to check White House initiatives. Meanwhile, they can prepare for 2016 where a large crop of then-seasoned GOP governors will likely produce a winning candidate.

In light of the tough second-term challenges faced by American Presidents, perhaps the Mexican model in which their Presidents is limited to serving just one six-year term isn't such a bad idea. Give them a turn and move them along before they get stale.

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