Obama will be hard to beat in 2012 poll, admit Republicans
Opposition says President has skill and cash to win
REPUBLICANS have abandoned the gloating rhetoric that followed their mid-term election gains in November, admitting that President Barack Obama will be difficult to beat in 2012 and expressing deep admiration for his political skills.
Months after condemning Mr Obama as a certain one-term flop in the image of Jimmy Carter, senior Republicans acknowledged that sitting presidents have historically started campaigns with a major advantage.
Polls have shown the president leading all his potential opponents by a margin of five percentage points or more.
"I consider him a favourite, albeit a slight favourite," said Karl Rove, a former adviser to George W Bush, the previous president. "Republicans underestimate President Obama at their peril."
Mr Obama's opponents have been taken aback by his readiness to move to the centre, agreeing to extend tax cuts passed by Mr Bush and making concessions on his treasured health care legislation.
The unprecedented grassroots operation that helped Mr Obama win in 2008 is still intact and it is expected that he will easily surpass the record $700m (€507m) raised in his first presidential campaign.
Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor who is likely to compete for the Republican nomination, said: "When Republicans act giddy and start measuring the drapes for the (White House) family quarters, I just want to remind them that this guy is going to be sitting on a billion dollars in a campaign fund and he is the incumbent president."
Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi and another potential White House contender, called Mr Obama "one of the greatest politicians in the history of the United States", though he insisted the president was beatable.
Analysts have said that high unemployment and record deficit levels meant Mr Obama would not enjoy a comfortable election.
But he will be helped by the fact that the likely Republican contenders have not yet shown themselves capable of rivalling his charisma or fund-raising capabilities.
Some, such as Senator John Thune, of South Dakota, and Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, have already dropped out of the reckoning, preferring to wait until 2016 when Mr Obama's two-term limit expires.
Although mid-term voters heavily punished the Democratic Party for the nation's poor economic performance, polls have shown that many ordinary Americans are not embracing the conservative agenda being pushed by some recently elected Republicans. (© Daily Telegraph, London)