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Obama Gears Up for Re-election

Barrington M. Salmon and James Wright | 9/7/2011, 12:25 p.m.

A little more than a year before President Barack Obama stands for re-election, his prospects have never seemed more unclear.

Gone is the euphoria and hope that his 2008 election engendered, and just Tuesday, new opinion polls illustrate the level of disillusionment the public feels. In a Washington Post/ABC poll released Sept. 6, 53 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the overall job the president is doing, while a mere 43 percent of respondents approve of Obama's handling of the economy.

Much of this dissatisfaction can be traced to a stubborn recession that has eroded public confidence, and unemployment figures that haven't much budged from nine percent. As many as 15 million people are out of work and economic indicators suggest that these numbers will likely not go down significantly anytime soon.

"I think he has had some significant accomplishments, such as passage of health care reform and passing the ball on other issues people may not be aware of," said Avis Jones-DeWeever, president of the National Council of Negro Women. "But he has also faced some challenges such as a very obstinate and very disruptive opposition. They have made the political calculation to make the nation continue to suffer rather than advance any policy that would benefit the president politically."

"They seek a political advantage while running for re-election, so they block the president's initiatives."

Its critics notwithstanding, the Obama administration - in power for a little more than three years - has worked aggressively to help Americans deal with the struggling economy. As president, Obama has passed comprehensive health care insurance, which gives every American access to the country's expensive health care system. At present, 59 million Americans do not have access to health care, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Obama ensured that large financial institutions did not collapse during the economic meltdown of 2008. He also worked to protect the rights of consumers from financial predators.

In an historic move, Obama bailed out the Big Three automakers, which saved more than one million jobs. In addition, he ended the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military.

The president worked with Congressional leaders to deliver tax cuts to the middle class and also delivered to families the means to more easily pursue higher education. Under his purview, Congress belatedly reduced the sentencing disparity for crack cocaine while granting jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia wide latitude in terms of legalizing the use of medical marijuana.

Obama's achievements have been praised in some quarters by leading presidential scholars.

"When you look at what will last in history, Obama has notches on the presidential belt," presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin said.

Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute in Northwest, agrees.

"If you're looking at the first two-year legislative record, you really don't have any rivals since Lyndon Johnson and that includes Ronald Reagan," Ornstein said.

Lately, black leaders like U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), scholar and activist Cornel West and media personality Tavis Smiley have taken Obama to task for not doing enough to reduce black unemployment and for not having a solid urban agenda.