President Barack Obama can no longer laugh away the state of the Democratic Party, as he tried to do glibly on "The Daily Show."
He can afford to be hopeful right now. To everyone who points at the incumbent and whispers, "another George H.W. Bush" and "another Jimmy Carter" — two one-term presidents in recent memory — I have a simple reply: Who's going to defeat Obama at the polls in 2012?
Ironically, the only individual I can think of is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and, no, she ain't running.
It's logical to assume that the president can build the economy in the next two years. As of now, the momentum is on his side.
If he can harness the power coming out of Silicon Valley and get a handle on how to create jobs out of social networking, he'll be in dandy shape for the 2012 presidential debates.
You won't need a new James Carville to shriek, It's the economy, stupid! The president, who watched Sen. John McCain's campaign crumble along with the fortunes of the Wall Street establishment, knows well where his bread is buttered.
Obama's prospects hinge on creating jobs. He doesn't seem to face a serious challenger at the moment. He will be judged in two years on his first-term performance. That's it.
He has annoyed so many of the people who voted for him two years ago that he has used up his ample supply of goodwill from the left wing. He can't hope to get by on the strength of his charismatic smile, upbeat speeches or liberal sympathizers.
It must have astonished Obama to see that some of the most strident criticism so far has come from the left. We can understand the tea party enthusiasts coming down hard on the president's questionable policies and his understated victories. That's what they do.
If Obama were to get 99 percent of the vote, these nitpickers would carp, See? What happened to the other 1 percent?
It's American politics. For now, time is on Obama's side. But time has a way of getting away from a president. Jimmy Carter underestimated Ronald Reagan's popularity with born-again Republicans from the Midwest and the South.
Obama must like his chances as he surveys the GOP hopefuls as of now.
But he'd be wise not to take anything for granted.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.