Weak Economy Is Hurting Obama in PA

Posted on June 10, 2011. Filed under: General Politics, Presidential Election |

The economy is moving at a snail’s pace and this sobering fact alone could be enough to put PA back in “battleground” status in time for the 2012 Presidential race.

Consider the drubbing of bad news that surfaced just in the last week of May.   The stock market dropped 297 points in a single day, its biggest one-day drop since June of last year.  With this decline the Dow has now fallen 5 consecutive weeks, the longest losing streak since 2004.  Consumer confidence in May as a result plummeted.   Housing prices have fallen to 2002 levels, and are even lower in markets like Nevada and Florida.   Manufacturing output saw its biggest one month slowdown since 1984.  The jobs report on Friday, June 3rd revealed only 54,000 jobs were added in May (following only 83,000 in April), the fewest in 12 months, and pushing the nation’s unemployment rate back up to 9.1%.

All this forecasting has led economists to downgrade their otherwise sanguine projections for second, third and fourth quarter growth.  The economy grew at an anemic 1.8% in the first quarter, but was expected to grow more robustly in coming months.  

So it’s no wonder voters are taking this out on President Obama.  According to our newest poll conducted May 30 to June 2 (also available for Premium Members), only 41% approve of the job the President is doing, compared with 48% who disapprove.  This represents a further decline from his 45% job approval rating in March – and a sobering finding when you consider that the President has been “riding high” on his job approval ratings on a nationwide basis due to the positive “bump” he received after successfully finding and killing Osama Bin Laden.   So what I’m basically saying is that the bleak economic news has virtually “erased” any positive bump the president might otherwise have had.

 In the poll, by a staggering 50-16 margin voters told us they think the economy in the state is actually WORSE today than it was 12 months ago, which is significant when you consider that the recession technically ended in 2009. And among those who say the economy is doing worse, only 31% approve of the job Obama is doing, while 61% disapprove – a 2:1 margin.  Moreover, while 43% said the president deserves to be reelected, 50 percent or 1 in 2 voters say it is time to give a new person a chance.

So the economic landscape has everything to do with Obama’s reelection prospects.  In 2008, John McCain was “in the hunt” to win Pennsylvania as late as mid-September.  But all this changed on September 22, 2008 when the Dow dropped 777 points in a single day following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  Congress balked on the first TARP vote the preceding week.  After the bottom fell out of the economy, “swing” and undecided voters concluded Bush, McCain & Co. were to blame and broke for Obama by a 2:1 margin starting in late September and continuing into October.  McCain never regained the lead in our polling, and it became the official beginning of the end for him.

So next year the presidential race could hinge on how these same “swing” voters break on the economy. The New York Times recently opined that no president since F.D.R. has ever been reelected when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.  And no economist in his right mind is projecting that the unemployment rate will fall to anywhere near this by the time the presidential race heats up.  So this means the pace of the recovery will have a direct impact on the President’s prospects for reelection.  And all this points to another close election for President in 2012.

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