Outgoing U.S. President Barack #Obama was not eligible to run this year for a third term in the Oval Office. In a recent interview with former top advisor David Axelrod, Obama said he's confident he could have won a third term in office if he was eligible to run. In the interview, the president is quoted as having said, "I'm confident that...if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could've mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.” For once in Obama's presidential career, he's probably right.

Critics were fast to offer a differing opinion

Naturally, this sparked rebuttal from Obama's critics.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Notably, GOP President-elect Donald Trump was among those jumping into the debate about whether Obama would have beaten him in a presidential match-up. Trump sent out one of his famous tweets after Obama's comment, saying, "He should say that but I say NO WAY!" Trump cited the Affordable Care Act and the rise of ISIS in the Middle East as reasons to believe the American people would have thrown our current president out after two terms. It's reasonable to assume many of those who voted for Trump in the primaries and the general election would share that sentiment for similar reasons. And while it's true that polls have shown the American people haven't particularly cared for Obama's handling of ISIS or the Affordable Care Act, those issues might not have quite been enough to get him thrown out after two terms.

Advertisements

Voters aren't quite that simple.

If Obama could run again, he'd be the incumbent president

If there were no 22nd Amendment, there's very little doubt Barack Obama would seek a third term in office. According to Gallup, Obama's average approval rating over his two terms stands at 48%, putting it above only the approval ratings of presidents Ford, Carter, and Truman. Their average ratings were 47.2, 45.5, and 45.4 percent, respectively. While it is true Obama has had among the lowest average approval ratings of an American president since World War II, he probably would still be elected. For whatever reason, voters historically have been drawn to incumbent politicians. There are theories on why the incumbent is seen as someone people want to re-elect, one of those being that voters want to stay with the devil they know. For example, voters would already know what they would get out of Barack Obama since he would have been in charge for eight years. They may not be so certain about his Secretary of State, who apparently botched an incident in Libya and most likely committed a felony that endangered the country's national security when she seemingly tried to cover it up.

Advertisements

Voters might have also been a little shaky about some real estate mogul and reality star with absolutely no political experience. They would be more likely to go with the sitting president than their other choices.

History backs up this idea

If you want to see how powerful the #incumbency is in politics, look no further than the history of the American presidency. Out of the 42 men who served as Commander in Chief before Barack Obama, only 10 of them were sitting presidents who got their party's nomination for re-election and did not win. The most recent examples being H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. Otherwise, nearly every other incumbent president who has run was re-elected, even leaders many of us don't think too highly of today such as Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. In fact, sometimes an American president may leave office abruptly in their first term, but the successor from their party will usually go on to get a second term. It doesn't mean the president is doing a good job per se, it just means people trust the devil they know.

Re-election isn't an indicator of greatness

Considering how common it is for the incumbent to be re-elected, Obama and his supporters shouldn't pat him on the back too much. If you know how to play the game of politics, you can succeed. #Donald Trump