Obama hints: I'm running for president again

Didn’t he once say he’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-termer? Well, the chances of a “really good” first term are pretty much shot, so I guess now it’s mediocrity or bust. Shoot for the stars, champ!

President Obama signaled today that he will seek reelection and dismissed as “completely unfounded” reports that he might replace Vice President Joe Biden on his 2012 ticket with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Obviously, I haven’t made any formal decision” on reelection, the president told National Journal in an exclusive 45-minute interview, “but I feel like I’ve got a lot of work left to do.”

Told that his answer sounded like he was saying “yes,” Obama nodded, then broadly smiled. “Take it as you will,” he said, laughing.

Obama bluntly dismissed suggestions, first raised by author Bob Woodward, that he might replace Biden with Clinton for the 2012 race.

Lest you think he’s bluffing, Axelrod is already starting to inch away from The One’s stance against Democratic outside groups with anonymous donors spending big money on elections. The old rule: No outside groups, please. The soon-to-be new rule: Yes, outside groups, please, but kindly disclose your contributors. As I said a few days ago, surely no one (including Harry Reid) found Sharron Angle’s mammoth third-quarter fundraising haul as frightening as the White House did, simply because it’s an early sign of how much money the conservative base will cough up in 2012 to knock Obama out of office. Axelrod will need all hands on deck to keep up, notwithstanding The One’s already legendary fundraising powers from 2008. So here’s his signal to lefty PACs to get in the game.

Even so, will it be enough? Mickey Kaus:

What [Saturday’s] comments [about voters being “scared”] suggest isn’t just that Obama will get clobbered in the midterms. It suggests that after he gets clobbered he won’t be able to adjust and turn the setback into a longterm victory the way Bill Clinton did. Clinton reacted to his 1994 midterm loss by acknowledging his opponents’ strongest arguments and pursuing a balanced budget and welfare reform. Obama seems more inclined to just tough it out until the economy recovers and the scared, confused voters become unscared and see the light. Meanwhile, he’ll spend his time in a protective cocoon.

A few weeks ago a right-wing reporter told me that worried Dem congresspersons who met with Obama left their meetings more worried than when they went in. I discounted the gossip, but now it’s beginning to ring true. We thought he was a great salesman. He turned out to be a lousy salesman. We thought he was a great politician. Instead he makes elementary mistakes and doesn’t learn from them. He didn’t know “shovel-ready” from a hole in the ground, and then somehow thinks admitting this ignorance without apology will add to his appeal.

I’d still defend most of the decisions Obama’s made, especially on health care refom. I’d rather have him making those decisions than 85% of the likely Republican candidates. But for the first time, he’s looking like a one-termer, even if the jobs start to come back.

It’s hard to imagine any incumbent losing if unemployment is trending downwards, especially after a sustained economic crisis, and it’s hard to imagine The One being so stupid as to stay in his liberal cocoon knowing that it would put the center of the electorate in play for 2012. Peter Beinart predicted a few weeks ago that Obama will actually tack left after the election on the theory that presidents tend to revert to campaign form when they get in trouble, but of course to hear David Brooks or Peggy Noonan or Kathleen Parker or Christopher Buckley tell it, Obama wasn’t a hard leftist during the campaign at all. He was an omnicompetent post-partisan pragmatist, eager to solve America’s problems by trying whatever would work. If he does revert to form, that’s the form he’ll revert to — which means he’ll try to make whatever deals he can with the new GOP House to push some compromise legislation through to pander to centrists. And then, if he gets reelected, he’ll govern as an even harder-left liberal in his second term. Good luck in 2012, moderate voters!

Exit question: If you were a lefty president terrified that your base of young voters will stay home on election day, which show would you appear on a few nights before to plead with them to go to the polls? Bingo.