Bernard Ingham: Obama has a lot of explaining to do if he wants voters to give him a second chance
After all, the Republican Party is overshadowed by the faintly loopy activities of the so-called Tea Party set and Sarah Palin. It is not offering a commanding figure or even hinting at a compelling alternative. Here in the UK, ConDem unpopularity has a long way to go yet, just as its durability has to be really tested by any rejection – please God – of reform of the electoral system in next year's referendum. In short, there is everything to play for in Washington and London.
It is here that the similarities end. Obama is responsible for Government. Miliband isn't. Obama has had a chance to show what he is made of. Miliband hasn't. More importantly, Obama came to office on such a wave of euphoria and delight that he has inevitably disappointed, as I forecast he would before his inauguration.
In contrast, Miliband has arrived with zero expectations, branded "Red Ed" for owing his election to the trade union movement and likened unto that remarkable, but loveable, cartoon character, Gromit.
May the good Lord preserve us, but if I were a betting man, I think I would back Miliband to become PM rather than Obama to retain the presidency. In the nature of things he is infinitely more likely to surprise us than Obama, whose fate was predictable.
Meanwhile, let us concentrate on the man, if not the hero, of the hour. For all the hype, Obama tends to underline the distinction between Democrat and Republican presidents I have in some slight way known. He dithers. He is no doubt as well-meaning as Jimmy Carter but seems to be all-over-the show, just like peanut farmer from Georgia. He is not yet the faintly comical figure Carter could be. Nor may he become one. But he is even more hopelessly burdened by the uncompromising soul of America's Left.
All this in spite of Obama weathering the global financial storm, though at the price of nearly 10 per cent unemployment, managing to get healthcare through Congress and softening a hostile global view of America.
But where he has failed most spectacularly is where I thought he would excel: namely in the political art of communication. If there was anything that I thought might rescue him from over-hype, it was his apparent facility to address the nation with authority.
His sharp, snappy idiosyncratic delivery contrasts sharply with the warmth in Ronald Reagan's approach to his fellow-Americans, but it was effective until he ran into trouble. He is, however, no Reagan either as a resolute leader or as a communicator.
I once saw Reagan effortlessly deliver his Saturday presidential address to the nation from Camp David from two sheets of pristine, closely-typed pages of script, with every emphasis and nuance beautifully enunciated. Margaret Thatcher, who would have annotated the text like an orchestral score, was lost in admiration. In fact, he broke her nerve with only a few minutes to go when he persisted in bantering with the radio and camera crews with not a care for the words to come. "Why are you not working on your script?" she asked in her schoolma'amy way. Reagan politely dismissed any such homework with a sunny wave of his arms.
Obama's failure to live up to this one reasonably high expectation we had of him – as a communicator – may prove fatal to his hopes of a second term. In many ways, he has turned out as inadequate a performer as George Bush Snr who had much difficulty with words – as his reference to "the vision thing" betrayed. His son proved it was in the genes.
Bush Snr was one of the most decent politicians I have ever met. I often wondered how on earth, apart from being from the East Coast establishment, he had survived in Washington. Yet, while thoroughly sensible, he somehow failed to impress. He was a one-term president. Obama needs to rediscover his communicator's touch to have a real chance of governing until 2016, whatever policy successes there are to come. He must explain himself better.