Friday, 15 June 2012
The President might just be in trouble
Long-term readers of the blog will know that I've always been pretty optimistic about President Obama's chances of winning re-election in November. He's charistmatic. He's a good campaigner. The demographics are going his way. He has plenty of cash to campaign with. His campaign is well-established, and they know more about the electorate than Mitt Romney's operations. The ground war, of activists on doorsteps, is likely to be heavily slanted in the President's favour.
So why, then, is he running pretty much neck-and-neck with his Republican challenger? Every single poll summary shows him only a point or two ahead. And he's even been sliding backwards in the count of state-by-state Electoral College votes, which until recently had him way ahead. Now very few of them put him over the magic finishing line of 270 Electoral College votes.
First: Romney is gaining traction and recognition. Lulled by websites that showed them winning pretty easily while ex-Governor Romney had to do battle with a string of unelectable right-wingers, Democrats thought he was a loser. But now he stands alone, and conservative Americans will rally behind him even if they don't like him very much. Which they don't. Second: the President has made a series of errors, summed up by his 'the private sector is doing fine' gaffe the other day. Such foot-in-mouth moments won't matter very much in November, but they chance the mood music.
Third, and most importantly, the economy is slowing rapidly, as job data has been showing for some weeks. This is the lethal danger, as leaders from Gordon Brown to Nicholas Sarkozy will tell you.
So the betting market now has President Obama at a 52.5% likelihood of re-election, whereas early this year he was up above 60%. Polling experts put that a little higher, again at about 60 per cent, but that can all change pretty quickly - as we've now seen already.
Small wonder that top Democratic strategists with long memories, and long experience of fighting elections, have been saying the same thing, over and over again: 'wake up, Democrats! You could lose'.
They probably shouldn't panic yet, if only because the fate of the White House isn't all that centrally in their hands. The bottom line is where it has always been: if the economy continues to recover, albeit weakly, President Obama will be in the White House for another four years. With something to spare. If it goes south, and in the worst analysis if there's another recession in the offing, then he could be toast.