The Presidential election is still just over 15 months away, and much can change in that time. However, as of now the signs are ominous for President Obama:
1. The Unemployment Rate: Currently the unemployment rate is around 9.2. Since World War 2 no President has been re-elected when the unemployment rate was greater than 7.2. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with an unemployment rate of 16. 6 and again in 1940 with an unemployment rate of 14.4. However, FDR had inherited an unemployment rate of 19.8. Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 7.8. If, as increasingly looks likely, the economy remains stagnant or slips back into recession, I find it had to see how there will be much improvement in the unemployment rate prior to November 2012.
2. Electoral College Shift: The Republicans will see a probable gain of approximately 14 votes in their electoral college votes simply due to red states gaining population and blue states losing population.
3. 2012 ain’t 2008: In 2008 Obama took Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina, a total of 39 electoral votes. I do not believe he has a prayer of taking any of those states in 2012. Ohio with 18 electoral votes and Florida with 29 electoral votes went for Obama in 2008, and both went big for the Republicans in 2010. Unless Obama can take one of those states, the electoral math becomes hard for him, albeit not impossible.
4. Say Goodby to the Youth Vote: Obama benefited from a high level of support among young voters, precisely the category of voters suffering the highest level of unemployment. I doubt if a good many of them will be motivated by the promise of four more years of the same to leave Mom and/or Dad’s basement to pull the lever again for Obama, certainly not in the same high numbers.
5. Polls: Obama is beginning to show real weakness when matched against a generic Republican:
Registered voters by a significant margin now say they are more likely to vote for the “Republican Party’s candidate for president” than for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, 47% to 39%. Preferences had been fairly evenly divided this year in this test of Obama’s re-election prospects.
The latest results are based on a July 7-10 poll, and show that the Republican has an edge for the second consecutive month. Obama held a slight edge in May, when his approval rating increased after the death of Osama bin Laden. As his rating has come back down during the last two months, so has his standing on the presidential “generic ballot.”
Gallup typically uses this question format when a president is seeking re-election but his likely opponent is unknown, as was the case in 1991-1992 and 2003-2004, when incumbents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, respectively, were seeking re-election.
The elder Bush held large leads over his generic Democratic opponent throughout 1991, but early 1992 preferences were more evenly divided and Bush eventually lost his re-election bid. The younger Bush also consistently maintained at least a small advantage over the Democrat throughout 2003, before winning re-election in a close contest in November 2004. These type of results will be worrisome to Obama’s political wonks, as a weakness in generic ballots often, although not always, presage a similar weakness for an incumbent when he is running against a named opponent after the primaries.
6. It’s Always the Economy: The electoral fate of presidents is almost always determined by the economy. The economy is lousy and it isn’t improving, and Obama is rapidly running out of time to change that devastating fact. All but his most ardent supporters will be thinking about that as they vote next year.