Polls indicate Obama will be a one-term president
Can President Obama’s make-or-break speech on job creation turn the tide in time?
THE CHANCES of President Obama getting elected for a second term look miserable. A new set of opinion polls suggest he is destined to be a one-term president, like Jimmy Carter and Dubya's father, George HW Bush, before him.
Three polls – commissioned by the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Politico – together paint a picture of a president facing a hill too high to climb. Among the findings are:
• Two-thirds of Democrats say the US is headed in the wrong direction;
• For the first time in his presidency, more people said they would vote for a "generic Republican candidate" than they would for Obama, by 44 to 40 per cent;
• By a margin of two to one, most Americans believe they are worse off now than at the start of Obama's presidency.
• Forty-three per cent of voters say they definitely will not vote for Obama in 2012.
Tomorrow, Obama will go before Congress to lay out his job creation plan – a programme designed to reduce the current 9.1 per cent unemployment figure. If it involves big spending, the Republicans are bound to resist it. If he can find other ways – through tax incentives, for example – he might just turn the tide.
The irony is, that many Americans will like what Obama has to say. When Politico's poll asked respondents about "a large scale federally subsidised nationwide construction programme putting Americans back to work building roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals" a 51 per cent majority favoured the idea, while only 21 per cent opposed it.
As Steve Benen, blogging for Washington Monthly, puts it: "For all the talk about the centre-right nation, and for all of the president's troubles in the polls, most of the public is still on board with what Democrats are proposing."
Greg Sargent, writing for the Washington Post, also points up this "striking disconnect" between Americans' confidence in Obama – low – and their approval of his actual polices – high.
While the WSJ poll showed only 37 per cent approve of his handling of the economy, and a meagre 31 per cent feeling confident that he has the right strategy to improve the economy, the figures tell a very different story when pollsters ask in detail about his policies.
As Sargent points out,
• A solid majority (60 per cent) supports reducing the deficit by ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich;
• A solid majority (56 per cent) supports reducing the deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts;
• Only 37 per cent support the GOP's solution to the deficit, i.e., reducing it only through spending cuts with no tax hikes on the rich or corporations.
On top of all that comes the Politico finding that, whatever the state of the economy, 73 per cent of Americans still like Obama.
So, while the Times calls tomorrow's speech a make-or-break moment, many believe Obama's best hope of winning a second term is that his countrymen fail to find a Republican candidate they can bear to elect in his place.
On that front, however, the race is narrowing, with the lunatic fringe candidates now being pushed aside by two clear front-runners, the pistol-toting Texas governor Rick Perry and the Mormon millionaire Mitt Romney.
Perry is pulling ahead – the Politico poll puts him on a stunning 36 per cent, against Romney's 17 per cent backing – but his right-wing views are divisive. However, as Alexander Cockburn wrote for The First Post last month, Perry has luck on his side – which is more than can be said for Obama. ·
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