Economy hurts Obama and his re-election chances

In U.S. politics, growing concern over the health of the domestic economy is casting a shadow over President Barack Obama’s hopes for re-election next year.

Three opinion polls this week highlight President Barack Obama’s challenge in turning around an increasingly negative public perception of the U.S. economy.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll found the president’s job rating at 47 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove. That is a five-point drop from a month ago when Obama was enjoying a popularity boost in the wake of the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, says Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown.

“The president has lost roughly half of his bin laden bounce, which means it is still better than it was, but not as good as it was right afterwards,” said Brown.

President Obama’s approval rating is also down in other polls this week conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News and by CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation, and the main reason is what voters see as a sputtering economic recovery.

In the latest Quinnipiac survey, Peter Brown says Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy by a margin of 58 to 36 percent, and 78 percent of those surveyed believe the United States is back in an economic recession.

Brown says that unless voters believe the economy is turning around by the middle of next year, the president will be in for a tough re-election fight in 2012 no matter who the Republicans nominate to run against him.

“Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the economy and the number who think that we are in recession is climbing and the number who think we are in a recovery is dropping. Those things could change. If they do not, it will be a close election,” noted Brown.

Democrats are urging the president to refocus on the economy and jobs, and Obama acknowledged this week that his administration is facing what he called some headwinds in trying to spur hiring and economic growth. “I am concerned about the fact that the recovery that we are on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen,” he said.

The domestic economy figures to be the top issue in next year’s election, and the Republican presidential contenders are making President Obama’s economic record the main focus of their attacks.

“Unemployment is back over nine percent, our national debt has skyrocketed, our budget deficit is growing worse and the jobs and manufacturing reports are grim. Now, if that was recovery then our president needs to enter economic rehab,” said former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty as he spoke about the economy in Chicago.

Pawlenty is one of several Republicans hoping to overtake the frontrunner for the party nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Romney continues to place first in polls gauging support for the Republican presidential contenders, including the Quinnipiac poll where he garnered 25 percent support. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin placed second with 15 percent, and several other contenders were in single digits.

Pollster Brown says it has been a good few weeks for Mitt Romney. “Mitt Romney obviously has a clear lead. It is not a huge lead, but it is a clear lead in the race for the Republican nomination. And the rest of the field is in single digits except for Sarah Palin, and it is not clear yet whether Ms. Palin is going to run or not,” stated Brown.

In addition to Palin, other Republicans who are considering entering the presidential race include Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

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