Are Second Term Presidents Inevitably Lame Ducks?

14 May 13 – Obama’s second term clouded by controversies

This question always vexes students, but this article gives a great summary of the start to Obama’s second term and highlights many of the reasons why second term presidents may be considered to be lame ducks. This question should always be thought about in terms of elections – through a potential 8 years of Presidency, he will be elected twice but Congress will be elected four times. This makes the likelihood of divided government much higher (look at post 1968 data for evidence) and the President can be weaker in divided government. The AO2 cliff hanger however, is that this isn’t always true – Obama had united government and a huge mandate but struggled from day 1. Clinton, on the other hand, had divided government from years 2-8 of his presidency, yet successfully held Congress to ransom by closing them down twice (and correctly guessing the media would not blame him, but Congress, for this). This can be a bit of a ‘waffle’ question, but with the right structure it’s brilliant, especially if you look at Bush from 2001 (91% approval) to 2008 (19% approval) – was this inevitable?