Good Odds, With Caveats, for Obama's Reelection

You guessed it: the economy could still sink him

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Sure, President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign has only just this week decided on where it will set up shop (Chicago), and the actual election remains 23 months away. That isn't stopping pundits from evaluating his reelection odds. The latest round of commentariat analysis concludes with a general consensus that Obama faces good prospects, with a few important caveats. Here's what they have to say.

  • Depends on Strength of GOP Field  The New York Times' Nate Silver sees good signs for Obama there. "His approval ratings right now are quite similar to where George W. Bush’s were at the end of 2004. Mr. Bush won re-election, albeit very narrowly and against a relatively weak Democratic nominee. Then again, the set of prospective Republican nominees is also perhaps rather weak. An average of polls conducted since Nov. 2 show Mr. Obama leading Mitt Romney by an average of 2 or 3 points, and Mike Huckabee by 3 or 4 points." Also, "Obama is more popular than the Republican Congress--an advantage that Bill Clinton did not have after 1994, nor Ronald Reagan after 1982. With the equally unpopular Democratic Congress largely being marginalized, that may work to his advantage."
  • Why 2012 Will Be Easier for Dems Than 2010  The National Review's Michael Barone calls Obama "down but not out." The conservative columnist writes,
Several factors will likely work less strongly against Obama in 2012 than against the Obama Democrats in 2010. Turnout will be different, for one thing. We may see again the record turnout of blacks we saw in 2008. Young people who pretty much shunned the polls in the midterms may turn out and vote--though the 34-point margin they gave to Obama was halved to 17 points for congressional Democrats in 2010. The balance of enthusiasm favored Republicans and conservatives in 2010, as it had favored Democrats in 2006 and 2008. It could conceivably shift and favor the Democrats once again.
  • GOP Congress a Boon for Obama  Conservative blogger Ann Althouse points out that both Reagan and Clinton won reelection after a bruising first-term midterm where their party lost control of Congress. Now that this has happened to Obama, could it help his reelection? "It seems to me that people generally tend to hate Congress, so it will help the President to have an oppositional Congress."
  • Caveat: GOP Challenger Will Be Strengthened By Primary  The Washington Post's Greg Sargent, though confident that "Obama is in reasonably good shape," warns, "any [Republican] candidate who survives the nomination process will both look a lot stronger than he or she looks now and will also, at least to some extent, have proved to actually be stronger than he or she looks now."
  • Caveat: Sluggish Economy Could Sink It  Paul Krugman and Robin Well write in The New York Review of Books, "Professional forecasters surveyed by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve now predict an average unemployment rate of 8.7 percent in 2012, awful news for a president seeking reelection. A tough, skillful political team might be able to win even in the face of such economic weakness. But the Obama team has demonstrated neither toughness nor skill."
  • The Two-Front War  Roll Call's Craig Crawford asks, "Can he give conservatives and liberals just enough of what they want to win reelection?" Crawford elaborates: "It is a formula that could facilitate Obama's reelection: Occasionally give in to conservatives on the fiscal front, while sporadically delivering what liberals want on the social front. Neither side will be thrilled but perhaps neither side will be angry enough to cost him another term."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.