The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As the holidays approach and the year draws to a close, the thoughts of Washingtonians are focused on one thing: the upcoming 2012 presidential election. The Republican candidates are getting ready for hard charges in Iowa and New Hampshire and, much as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney might wish it otherwise, the Republican primary is still anybody's game. It's a foregone conclusion, though, that President Obama will stand for re-election as his party's candidate. The question is, however, which Barack Obama will be running for president in 2012? This isn't the first time in recent history that a sitting president has run for re-election facing vastly different circumstances than he did when first elected. In many ways, President Obama's situation is eerily similar to that faced by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996.