All Obama Has to Do is to Stand Still

23/12/2011 13:47 GMT | Updated 21/02/2012 10:12 GMT

The numbers are looking up for the President according to the latest polls his approval rating is now up to at 49%. It has risen by seven points in a little over a month when he has done well, not much at all. The political winds seem to blowing his way. The thrust of Obama's election in 2008 was to unite Americans to end divisive politics.

In his quiet and unconfrontational manner he has been true to his campaign promise, but this approach without soaring rhetoric or at least a reassuring arm around America has left many, as quoted by matt Damon, to "no longer hope for audacity". Progressives, liberals and independents have felt bereft of a leader that will stiffen the sinews and take the fight to the bellicose right. Maybe with the small upswing from the economy, the latest jobless figures are 8.6% and confidence is returning, things are playing into his hands just at the right time. Probably the smartest move of his first term, was not to polarise and let a Republican party in throes to hard right and the tea party do that for him and in the process re-elect him.

Possibly the strategy of talking softly, trying to compromise and being "nice", which many have taken for weakness and inept leadership is the kind of Presidential retail politics that will win in 2012. Maybe his smile and mild manners can at least weaken the Republicans in Congress who seem hell bent on opposing any bill that smells of compromise. Senator John McCain says Congress' latest failure to reach agreement on legislation extending the payroll tax cut for working Americans "hurts the Republican Party." Obamas 2008 election opponent goes on to comment that his party made a mistake in voting down the Senate-passed version of a bill that would have kept the current payroll tax relief for at least two more months. In this he is in good company the Wall Street Journal and Newt Gingrich amongst others have lined up to condemn the brinksmanship and obstructionism of house Republicans in making deals that seem only to be in the short term interests of the Tea Party base and radio talk show hosts. They seem to want to brag that they have been true to their convictions as the machinery of government grinds to a halt.

Looking back at the period before the debt ceiling debate in August may well prove to be the high water mark of this shouty, my way or the highway, tail wagging the dog republican strategy of conducting politics. With many Tea Partyers pushing for the US credit rating to be downgraded, many moderate republicans were aghast that they would risk Government default and world financial chaos for purely ideological reasons. If moderate Republicans could not understand that, well neither could Democrats or Independents. It was after that bloody episode that the President's poll numbers started to inch north. He was seen as a captive to the reckless right and he labelled the Congress as a do nothing body, echoing Harry Truman, this chimed with the American people as Congress scored record low approval numbers of 11%.

So is Obama a certainty for 2012? Not yet. The economy can still play a decisive part, if things get very much worse. Maybe he can smile his way through until the end of January when the Republican nominee he will probably face will be known, but after that he will have to energise voters to engage with him, not just like him. The main points of his re-election stump as becoming clear though . "I'm the president that saved America from the second depression; look at my foreign record and look at the alternative", will be the main planks of his argument for another four year term." Whether this will inspire like his message of hope in 2008, I doubt but the Republicans will only have themselves to blame if he has to nothing more than this to win.

So can Obama smile his way to November with the political tides flowing his way?