To many, President Obama is looking a lot like Jimmy Carter: a well-meaning but unimpressive one-term president. But rather than just run a competent campaign against his Republican opposition, Obama can be re-elected enthusiastically in 2012 by taking bold moves that show the type of leadership and decisiveness he has been lacking.
1. For the coming campaign, he should switch out Vice President Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Although Joe Biden has added wisdom and maturity to Team Obama, he has no passionate base and prospect of running for president in 2016. Hillary Clinton, however, has performed well as Secretary of State and respect for her has only grown since 2008. Adding to her strength as a candidate is the nostalgia many Democrats have for the Clinton years, which could return under a President Hillary Clinton in 2016. As for Biden, Secretary of State would be a more natural fit for his foreign-policy skills, which he doesn't have many opportunities to showcase as VP. But what would be even better: If Biden stepped up and asked for the change.
In one swift move, Obama would shore up his support with Hillary voters, who on average happen to be more centric, and instantly create a reelection ticket more exciting than the one Republicans will likely put together.
2. Give a quick boost to the economy by supporting some Republican proposals.
By now it should be clear that Obama's handling of the economy has been a failure. Even worse, there's not much chance that the economy will rebound enough by next year to allow Obama to run on his economic record. Which means Obama needs to somehow diminish the economy as a GOP talking point as much as he can. One way he can do that is by supporting some Republican ideas on the issue.
For instance, Republicans have been pushing for a tax holiday on returning corporate profits made overseas. Returning this money -- which some estimates put as high as a trillion dollars -- would serve as a private-sector stimulus for the economy. But corporations have not done so because they'll be forced to pay U.S. taxes on these profits. So, instead, they keep it overseas. By reducing the rate, as was done with a Democratic Congress and President Bush in 2004, Obama would give a much needed boost to the economy.
But President Obama should adopt the proposal of Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley. She is proposing funds be repatriated with tax cut rates as low as 5.25 percent, provided the company increases U.S. investment or jobs. Republicans would be hard pressed not to accept this proposal. It would boost the economy, create jobs in 2012 and immediately cut the deficit as new tax revenue follows new jobs and investments.
3. Challenge Americans to provide ideas to tackle the deficit.
Right now many Americans feel that their voices aren't being heard, and that the special interests and both parties' fringes hold the real power in Washington. Indeed, Gallup released a poll recently showing that 63 percent of Americans have a "somewhat negative" view of the U.S. government. So imagine if Speaker Boehner and President Obama together held a press conference urging Americans to submit ideas on how to cut federal government spending. For instance, I know several doctors that have excellent ideas about how to cut drug and healthcare costs without compromising patient care - but with no avenue for doing so. Obama and Boehner could provide that avenue and bring all of America in on the discussion.
Also, simply by joining with Boehner, the President would be exerting unusual leadership by getting beyond partisanship and showing he could work with Republicans to solve problems. Speaker Boehner should be willing to do this, if only because he knows that he will have given Obama a major victory with independent voters if he refuses. The incoming ideas can be evaluated, summarized and tabulated by a bipartisan volunteer group appointed by the President and Speaker, and then announced during a follow-up press conference.
Today's sour American mood reflects not only a tough economy, but also disenchantment with Washington and weariness with the political bickering. The upcoming election will only intensify these feelings.
President Obama can improve the nation and his standing by creative, bold and bipartisan leadership. If he wants any chance of winning a second term, President Obama has to become more of a leader and less of a politician.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, "The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream."