President Barack Obama is likely to be defeated in 2012. The reason is that he faces four serious threats. The economy is very weak and unlikely to experience a robust recovery by Election Day. Key voter groups have soured on him. He’s defending unpopular policies. And he’s made bad strategic decisions.
Let’s start with the economy. Unemployment is at 9.1%, with almost 14 million Americans out of work. Nearly half the jobless have been without work for more than six months. Mr. Obama promised much better, declaring that his February 2009 stimulus would cause unemployment to peak at 8% by the end of summer 2009 and drop to roughly 6.8% today.
After boasting in June 2010 that “Our economy . . . is now growing at a good clip,” he laughingly admitted last week, “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” The humor will be lost on most. In Wednesday’s Bloomberg poll, Americans believe they are worse off than when Mr. Obama took office by a 44% to 34% margin.
The last president re-elected with unemployment over 7.2% was FDR in 1936. Ronald Reagan overcame 7.2% unemployment because the rate was dropping dramatically (it had been over 10%) as the economy grew very rapidly in 1983 and 1984. Today, in contrast, the Federal Reserve says growth will be less than 3% this year and less than 3.8% next year, with unemployment between 7.8% and 8.2% by Election Day.
Mr. Obama also has problems with his base. For example, Jewish voters are upset with his policy toward Israel, and left-wing bloggers at last week’s NetRoots conference were angry over Mr. Obama’s failure to deliver a leftist utopia. Weak Jewish support could significantly narrow Mr. Obama’s margin in states like Florida, while a disappointed left could deprive him of the volunteers so critical to his success in 2008.
Mr. Obama’s standing has declined among other, larger groups. Gallup reported his job approval rating Tuesday at 45%, down from 67% at his inaugural. Among the groups showing a larger-than-average decline since 2009 are whites (down 25 points); older voters (down 24); independents and college graduates (both down 23), those with a high-school education or less, men, and Southerners (all down 22); women (down 21 points); married couples and those making $2,000-$4,000 a month (down 20). This all points to severe trouble in suburbs and midsized cities in states likes Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada.