Actually, Obama is the predestined loser in 2012, but ...

Imagine, the victory is yours and you have no one to collect the trophy. So it goes for the Republicans one year before the election. Actually they would have to win big-time next November and drive Obama out of the White House. But they can’t manage to get a candidate who could pluck this low-hanging fruit.

First, Obama. Two classic questions of the opinion researchers are: “Are you satisfied with how things are going?” and “Is the country on the right path?” Obama comes away worse than all of his predecessors at this point in his term of office, including the hapless Jimmy Carter. Only eleven percent are satisfied; only 20 percent see the country on the right course.

For George W. at this point in time it was 44 and 52 percent; he got reelected. For Carter it was 19 and 16 percent; he failed. His problems at the end of the seventies were practically identical to those of Obama today: A severe recession, high unemployment. Only the millstone of high inflation is not around Obama’s neck, but on the other hand, there are two wars that are being lost.

Is he then the predestined loser? He would have to be according to all historical experience, but this prophecy remains in the subjunctive. Because, his personal values are still high: Two-thirds find him “likeable,” 49 percent “honest and open.” And the Republicans are still desperately looking for a candidate who will conquer the White House for them.

A few weeks ago the great hope was still named Rick Perry. The governor of Texas shot to the front, because frontrunner Mitt Romney was as exciting as porridge. Now Perry stands merely ten points behind Obama; he has been weighed and found too light. However, Romney does not enthuse; he gets no more than a tie with Obama.

Romney doesn’t inspire the party at all. Therefore, a pizza king named Herman Cain, the only black candidate, suddenly won the straw poll in Florida with 37 percent. The quite new dream candidate for a week was Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey. The man is a heavyweight in every regard (220 pounds), but he has a large flaw: On Tuesday he decided against the candidacy in spite of a wave of encouragement ranging from Henry Kissinger to Nancy Reagan.

Christie, an experienced and popular politician, would have been the right remedy for right-wing populists like Perry and Bachmann. Now this dream has burst. Today only one thing is certain: No candidate is catching fire, and therefore anyone can reap his quarter-hour of fame.

Bottom line: Obama would have to lose big-time, but the Republicans find no candidate who can channel the discontent, and offer an answer to the economic crisis and not just populist wonder drugs. Mitt Romney will probably make the race. In this case the big-time would remain open in November 2012, although all historical experience whispers “good-bye” to Obama.

*Translator’s Note: In the original article that appeared in Die Zeit, there was also mention of Sarah Palin’s possible candidacy. Palin announced on Thursday she was not running. Therefore the text was updated.