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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 5. Barack Obama

Hawaiian 5-0.

"What happened to Obama?" asked the headline of a New York Times essay in August. As he passes his half-century and approaches the third anniversary of his election, the US president looks less like the commander-in-chief and more like compromiser-in-chief. Conservatives may loathe him, but Obama should be more worried about the growing disillusionment of his own base. Liberals have decried his seeming capitulation to the right on civil liberties, spending cuts and financial reform. He may have ordered the killing of Osama Bin Laden, but the president's approval ratings are at an all-time low. Unemployment stands at 9.2 per cent - and not since FDR in the 1930s has a president won re-election with unemployment above 7.2 per cent. The Republicans' inability to settle on a credible presidential candidate may be his best hope of securing a second term.

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This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter