On a recent visit to London I was struck by how much faith many British politicians, journalists and political advisers have in Barack Obama being re-elected in 2012. In the aftermath of the hugely successful Special Forces operation that took out Osama Bin Laden and a modest spike in the polls for the president, the conventional wisdom among political elites in Britain is overwhelmingly that Obama will win another four years in the Oval Office. Add to this a widespread perception of continuing disarray in the Republican race, as well as a State Visit to London that had the chattering classes worshipping at the feet of the US president, and you can easily see why Obama’s prospects look a lot rosier from across the Atlantic.
But back in the United States, the reality looks a lot different. Many political leaders in Britain fail to understand the degree to which the American people are deeply unhappy with their president’s poor handling of the economy. Nor have they grasped the epic scale of the defeat suffered by the president in the November mid-terms, and the emphatic rejection by a clear majority of Americans of the Big Government Obama agenda.
Just seven months ago, the United States was swept by a conservative revolution that fundamentally transformed the political landscape on Capitol Hill, and gravely weakened the ability of the president to pass legislation. This revolution is not in retreat but gaining ground, led by charismatic figures such as Paul Ryan, the Reaganite chairman of the House Budget Committee, entrusted with reining in out of control government spending. And as a Gallup poll showed, America is unquestionably a conservative country ideologically, but one that is ironically led by the most left-wing president in the nation’s history.
Ultimately, the 2012 presidential election will be decided by the state of the economy, and new data released this week makes grim reading for the White House. In fact you cannot watch a US financial news network at the moment, from Bloomberg to CNBC to Fox Business, without a great deal of pessimism about the dire condition of the world’s biggest economy. 66 percent of Americans now worry the federal government will run out of money in the face of towering public debts.
To say this has been an extremely bad week for the Obama administration on the economic front would be a serious understatement. As The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, home prices in the United States have sunk to their lowest levels since 2002, falling 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2011. At the same time, employment growth is stalling, with only 38,000 Americans added to the workforce in May, the smallest increase since September. This compares with 179,000 jobs added in April. There has also been a steep slowdown in the manufacturing sector, and a downturn in the stock market on the back of weak economic news.