This could be problematic. I’ve been fairly sanguine about Obama’s re-election chances, but no incumbent has been re-elected with an unemployment rate over 7.2% since FDR (and the 7.2% belonged to Reagan). It’s currently around 9%, and could possibly increase with tomorrow’s data. It will not improve to 7.2% in time to have a (positive) effect on Obama’s chances in time for the election. While the 7.2% figure is arbitrary, and this election might not hinge on the usual simple domestic economic factors, it is still cause for some concern.
While Obama is currently ahead of the extant / potential Republican field (Romney +7, Gingrich +14, Palin +17), and there is an informative debate surrounding the utility (or lack thereof) on polling data this far in advance of the election (which I wrote about here in February), I likewise don’t find much comfort from these numbers in June 2011.
What is clear is that Congress and the Administration are unlikely to find common ground over economic policy, and the Republicans are playing a game of chicken over the debt ceiling. Indeed, I’m sure it’s not lost on some Republican members that it’s in their electoral interests to hurt, not help, the economy; hopefully they don’t seriously use the debt limit as their primary bargaining tool. So in all likelihood, this is the economic context in which the 2012 election will be fought.
What could help? It’s beyond blaming the previous administration. Rather, a sustained, perceptible, positive movement over the next year would help, but that’s largely beyond politics or campaigning. It may come down to having faith in the Democratic Party in framing an issue or issues to their favor, such as the Republicans’ Medicare policy. Relying on faith in the Democrats’ ability at electioneering rarely places me in a comfortable position. At least, as with our newest colleague here at LGM, I have a wedding to look forward to (one month from today no less).
As my grading is finally done for the academic year as of an hour ago, I imagine that it’s in my interests to start paying some more attention to said event.