The majority of New Jersey voters favored Barack Obama in his bid for reelection, which wasn’t a surprise. But there are questions about what he plans to do during his second term as president. Former senior Obama advisor and Seton Hall University Law Professor Mark Alexander told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that Obama needs to assert his presidential power more during his second term and offered some insight into the president’s opinion on campaigning.
Alexander said he wasn’t surprised that Obama received more than 300 electoral votes even without Florida being counted because the president built up a campaign network in 2008 with a team of people who remained active for the following four years.
According to Alexander, Obama enjoys campaigning very much. “Remember, he’s an organizer. That’s what he did as his work for a long time,” he said. “He likes getting out to neighborhoods and talking to people about their needs, what they want to do.”
While Obama may have struggled during the first debate, Alexander said he looked much more at ease during the second debate which was a town hall style. “He’s really great at just sitting down and talking to people whether it’s 100 people one at a time or just one person. He really likes that — the retail campaigning, the talking to people,” Alexander said. “That kind of thing is his comfort level.”
Some Republicans have criticized Gov. Chris Christie for his treatment of Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, saying Christie praised him too much. Alexander said he saw his governor and his president working together in the aftermath of a devastating storm, which is what should happen. “That’s fundamentally what, to me, government is about. It’s about finding ways to make sure people have a decent life. It doesn’t solve everybody’s problems, but particularly in time of need if the government can be that backstop,” Alexander said. “That’s what fundamentally FEMA did and the governor and the president together, they said let’s help people out.”
Alexander said elected officials need to lead and not always worry about party platforms. “They need to put partisan politics aside in order to take care of needs of people. We are in a period in which we’ve had consistent job growth but nobody, including the president, is satisfied for us to stop today. We are in a period where we’re recovering from a hurricane. All these things are going to require all of us to pull together and do something positive,” he said. “We need that kind of leadership. Democrat, Republican, whatever your affiliation.”
When asked what Obama needs to do in his second term, Alexander said, “I think in the second term he’s got to stand up and recognize the power of the presidency and say, ‘I am the president.’”
Alexander said he believes Obama has learned the power of the presidency over the last four years and will need to work with Republicans but also be willing to take a harder stance.
“I think he needs to exercise that tool a little bit more and sometimes say, ‘I’ve tried and I want to be somebody who works with everybody but sometimes I’m going to just take us and I’m going to expect us to go forward because the people have chosen me to be the president and we are going to move forward as a nation and we’re going to be better for it,’” Alexander said. “And not wait and not necessarily have to compromise sometimes.”