The challenges of incumbency

"I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job." The line was spoken by Michael Douglas in his role as the fictional President Andrew Shepherd in the 1995 film The American President.

“I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job.” The line was spoken by Michael Douglas in his role as the fictional President Andrew Shepherd in the 1995 film The American President. As I stumbled upon this scene while flipping channels the other night, President Obama's quest for another White House term came to mind.

There are surely advantages to being the incumbent in any election, but a key danger in that scenario is that you become so fixated on earning another four years that you struggle to perform the duties for which you were chosen to serve those first quartet of years.

Obama has pretty much stayed above the fray thus far, waiting for a clear winner to emerge from the GOP battle royal before he seriously engages the opposition. On The Tonight Show last Tuesday, he told Jay Leno, "I'm going to wait until everybody is voted off the island,” referring to popular reality show Survivor.

Come next year, however, he obviously won't have that luxury. He'll have to stump. He'll need to debate. Quite frankly, I suspect he will excel at both as he has proven to be an excellent “candidate.” His comfort level on Leno's couch confirms that.

However, as any communicator will tell you, the message can be pristine, but it's worthless if the actions aren't there to back it up.

This point is highlighted by a Fox News poll released last Thursday that found 52% of registered voters feel Obama's economic “ideas are good, but he hasn't been able to get them implemented.”

With all due respect to Ronald Reagan, Obama has shown myriad flashes of being this generation's “Great Communicator.” What voters should – and likely will – pay attention to from this point forward, however, are not the words he utters to tell them why he deserves another term. It's his actions proving that he is worthy of the first term he is currently serving that would be the strongest outreach tactic he could employ.

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