One of the most startling differences I have noticed whilst living in Washington, DC is between how Americans and Brits view President Obama. In the UK, Obama is seen as the Movie Star to end all Movie Stars. He represents the best of America. Everyone wants a piece of him. When President Obama came to the UK in 2009 before the 2010 General Election both Gordon Brown and David Cameron were dying to get their photo taken with him. Both hoping some of his Presidential stardust would rub off on them, propelling them to electoral glory.
President Obama is undoubtedly the idealized American President for Brits. Young, goodlooking, charismatic, cosmopolitan, intelligent. And unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush he can string a sentence together. Obama being the exact opposite of Bush undoubtedly enhanced his popularity overseas. Obama represents the America we want to believe in. The one of opportunity and meritocracy.
I have to admit I was shocked by the lacklustre feelings Americans have for Obama. This should not be altogether unexpected. I always felt that one of the biggest negatives about Obama as a candidate in 2008 was that he couldn't possibly live up to the titanic expectations he set up for himself in his pledge to bring 'Change' to Washington.
Obama seriously needs to fire up his base. Obama's perfectly timed 'evolution' on Gay Marriage is quite obviously a means to fire up his core base of young Liberals. I always found his previous opposition to Gay Marriage to be unsettling and hypocritical. At the time of President Obama's birth in 1961 his parents wouldn't have been allowed to have married in 13 states (it wasn't until 1967 when The Supreme Court struck down bans on inter-racial marriage as unconstitutional).
Like everything in politics, this is a double-edge sword, Obama needed to do something to fire up his base but this could seriously cost him in the fall. This could cost Obama in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa and Wisconsin. Outside of the major cities many people in these states are very socially conservative and it's questionable whether Obama would have carried them in 2008 if he was Pro-Gay Marriage. Pennsylvania and Ohio are of course two of the most crucial swing states that must be won to be elected President. Virginia is crucial to Obama as his winning of Virginia last time around was seen as a major symbol of his success. He could proudly boast that no Democrat since LBJ had won Virginia so it was symbolic of his new era of Politics.
Will Obama be rewarded for being on the right side of history? Or are Obama's chances of reelection 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'?