Matthew Norman: Obama's second term is safe. Republicans will see to that

If Michelle Bachmann, another ultra-Godly, Creationist mom of five from the howling far right, is a new name to you, best get used to it
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The Independent Online

From a physical distance of several thousand miles and a temporal one of almost 20 months, it would take an idiot of an astonishingly rare order to predict today that the 2012 race for the White House is as good as over. Having passed that test, let me state that Barack Obama will be re-elected, probably by a landslide. You will have noted the cunning insertion of that "as good as", by way of pre-emptive disclaimer for when he loses. And lose he may yet, for any number of reasons. Between now and November next year, for example, he might – influenced by Luke Rhinehart's novel The Dice Man, devolve every Oval Office decision to the random fall of numbered cubes – nuke Montana in compliance with a double six. He might replace Michelle with John Galliano, adorning their bed with a silk organza Dior duvet featuring the Führer's face in sequins. Or he might give his Secret Service detail the slip, and streak down Pennsylvania Avenue waggling the presidential member at pedestrians while singing Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling" in a Scissor Sisters' falsetto.

If these, in Rumsfeldese, are the unknowns we cannot know, the US economy is the known unknown. With growth accelerating and unemployment finally, if gingerly, starting to ebb, the cycle looks as well calibrated in this incumbent's favour as it was for those other mid-term strugglers Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Yet even if the economy should suddenly stagnate, how can he lose to any of the potential Republican contenders on view? If God invited him to pick the ante post GOP field for 2012, he could hardly improve on the list with which fate has rewarded him by adding the Unabomber.

No candidate has declared yet, unusual at this stage, and may hint at the hunch that challenging Obama in 2012 is a suicide mission. Mitt Romney is the favourite, though by default in much the way I'd be odds-on for the Olympic 100 metres if the other seven lanes were occupied by Eric Pickles, Patrick Moore, Two Ton Tessie O'Shea, Stephen Hawking, the late Margaret Rutherford, my wife's tortoise Niles, and Young Mr Grace. Crushed last time by John McCain, Romney is a frail candidate by normal standards. His Mormonism is a serious flaw in a nation of nauseatingly aggressive religiosity; his introduction as Governor of Massachusetts of a health care scheme strikingly similar to Obama's, a potentially fatal one with Republicans. With the looks of a plastic Warren Beatty and the charisma of an anaesthetised hat stand, Romney has two things in his favour: a colossal fortune to bankroll his campaign, and not being a fully fledged dunce (though of course the latter may be a handicap with primary voters).

The erstwhile televangelist Mike Huckabee has neither. In a bid to ingratiate himself with Tea Partiers and their Birther brethren, he recently blew his USP – a certain, aw shucks likeability – with an attack of such moronic disingenuity that Sarah Palin herself has never made it. He told an interviewer that Obama was reared in Kenya by his anti-British father and grandfather. Later reminded that Obama, after a spell in Indonesia, grew up in Hawaii with the white, American half of his family, not setting foot in Kenya until 26, Huckabee used the euphemism du jour for "told a whopper" (© H Clinton, 2008) and claimed he "misspoke".

Still, at least Huck always knew that Kenya is a sovereign state within the continent of Africa... an arcane shard of knowledge once allegedly beyond Palin, who this week unconvincingly denied positing that Africa is a country. That, she said, was a hurtful lie – one of the few areas on which the inventor of "Obama death panels" speaks with authority. The Palin joke appears to have delighted America long enough since Gabrielle Giffords' shooting in Arizona.

Indeed, with her – as with Huckabee, the Sooty to her Soo on puppetmaster Murdoch's Fox News – doubts grow that she will have a crack. If she does, it will be fun watching the great huntress becoming, to adapt Earl Spencer at Diana's funeral, the hunted. She can run from scrutiny now, confining herself to ghost-written tweets, but the glory of US national politics is that, over all the draining months of primary and general election campaigning, you cannot hide.

And so, because insta-satire abhors a vacuum, to the new Palin. If Michelle Bachmann, another Tea Party Express darling and ultra-godly, Creationist mom of five from the howling far right, is a new name to you, best get used to it. Bachmann is poised to turn her gearstick to overdrive, and I imagine that even those familiar with her work ain't seen nothing yet. Not that what's been on offer so far has been dull. The congresswoman who recently described Obama's as a "gangster government" once asked Minnesotans to become "armed and dangerous" to resist his plans to combat global warming, in which she doesn't believe on the grounds that carbon dioxide is "a natural by-product", and must therefore be good for us. Like uranium.

There are other, equally credible potential runners. Some, like Newt Gingrich, are has-beens. Others, such as Rick Santorum, another Creationist, look like never-will-bes. Both have had their Fox contracts suspended preparatory to announcing their candidacies, where tellingly Huck Thick and Alaska's Cretina D'Evil have not. Other laughable far right fancies include untested pretty boy Marco Rubio, who hasn't yet turned 40. With forward-combing panto dame Donald Trump toying with a run on the billionaire independent platform, what Obama sees as he scans the electoral horizon must look less like a field strewn with landmines than an elongated audition for an off-Broadway revival of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

The President may vex his supporters almost as much as his enemies, with Matt Damon doling out a kicking even before the soul-chilling news about military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. His presidency has hardly been the game-changing assertion of liberal values many expected. He has, in many ways, disappointed. Yet he is waltzing towards a second term while the dullards, maniacs and quarter-wits of the Republican Party prepare to spend 18 months gouging each other's eyes out. The economy will be pivotal, as always, but Obama's election slogan need not ape Bill Clinton's to the letter. "It's the stoopids, stupid" should do just fine.