Looking at a stagnant economy and two special-election losses, the president's backers warn that he could be in trouble in 2012
Crushing defeats for the Democratic party in two special congressional elections on Tuesday, an economy that's showing no signs of revival, and Obama's declining approval ratings have become too much to defend, even for some of the party's most zealous spin doctors. The president's support is eroding across the board, and the coalition of liberals, minorities, young people, and labor that helped elect him in 2008 is fraying badly.
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"Democrats should be very nervous," said Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman and senior strategist at Priorities USA, which is raising millions of dollars for the 2012 election. "They need to put on their war paint and get ready for what is going to be a very difficult battle. Unless activists really engage and recognize the stakes of this fight, it's going to be impossible for the president to win."
Though Burton strongly cautioned against reading too much into any one Democratic setback, he didn't discount the signs of Obama discontent:
- A New York City district held by Democrats since 1923 fell to the GOP in a special election on Tuesday. A Republican political novice, businessman Bob Turner, framed the vote in the heavily Jewish district as a referendum on President Obama, raising questions about the level of his support with a key Democratic constituency.
- Republican Mark Amodei on Tuesday cruised into a congressional seat in the battleground state of Nevada in a special election Democrats had hoped would expose a backlash against the GOP over its proposed Medicare overhaul. It didn't.
- The Republican National Committee raised more than $8 million last month, marking its best August in a nonelection year and crushing the $5.5 million haul by its Democratic counterpart--even after President Obama's birthday fundraising drive.
- In the wake of economic reports showing job creation at a standstill, the U.S. Census reported on Tuesday that one in six Americans are living in poverty. Poverty last year surged to its highest level since 1993.
- Obama's approval rating in California, traditionally a true-blue state for Democrats, slipped to 46 percent in a new Field Poll. The latest Bloomberg Poll found most Americans don't believe the president's $447 billion jobs plan will lower the unemployment rate.