I think it's ridiculous to pressure the incumbent candidate to step down, especially to cede the floor to the person he beat to get the job in the first place. The fact is, he's President, and that has a powerful effect on our minds. We can certainly see him as President. Everyone else is a puny upstart (until they prove otherwise). Now, perhaps I'm more of a sucker for incumbents than most people. Only twice in my life — and I've voted since 1972 — have I declined to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, and both times, it was for an incumbent Republican. I'm referring to the 1976 and the 2004 elections. In both cases, I could visualize the President as President, but not the challenger.
Now, let me be clear. I have argued that Obama shouldn't want to run for a second term. Back on April 3d of this year, I indulged in some imaginative mind-reading, but that wasn't about how the Democratic Party could increase it's chances of winning in 2012. It was a flight of fancy into Obama's psyche:
If he is reelected, then that will be the end of running for President. He'll be 54 years old, and what will he do? Move to Hawaii and play golf? But he could move to Hawaii and play golf in January 2013, if that's an enticing prospect. And, if he does, he won't have maxed out his eligibility for being President. He can tantalize us, year after year, with the possibility that he would run for another term — a fascinatingly out-of-sequence term. The thing he's best at is running for President. Why let that game expire? He could toy with it in 2016, when he's 58, and in 2020, when he's a clear-visioned 62, and in 2024, when he's a well-seasoned 66, and in 2028, when he's a beneficent elder, offering his services once again, because his country longs for the golden days of 2011. It will never end, as long as the icon of hope and change — oh, my lord, I typo'd "hope and chains"! — walks the face of the earth... unless he serves that second term.So, I can see Obama choosing to withdraw, with some magnificent long-term life plan. But pressure him out? Ridiculous! Whatever his poll numbers now, whatever the pain and suffering, he's got a long campaign ahead of him. The campaigning Obama is the one we know best. Sure, he'll have a lot to answer for, but it's not a question of whether we're happy about what's been going on these last few years. It will be a choice between him and that other guy (or gal). And I'm betting he'll win.
ADDED: Here's a May 1st post talking about Mickey Kaus saying Obama shouldn't run:
I'm not saying Mickey stole my idea. In fact, our ideas are completely different (except for picturing Obama not running). Mickey portrays Obama as a big old failure who ought to get out gracefully and give another Democrat a clean shot. Meade and I were fantasizing from Obama's perspective — what his life really feels like to him and how to milk the pleasure of being Obama for all it's worth.