“When people look at the condition of the country, particularly the economic condition of the country, and then look at President Obama’s policies, which have made that condition worse, not better, I believe the majority will vote for a change, to get the country back on the right track,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R). “But it’s anything but a given, and you shouldn’t ever bet against an incumbent.”
Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, said there are three ways the president can win: through improvements in the economy, which he acknowledged look questionable, given forecasts; through the failure of Republicans to nominate a strong candidate; or through missteps by congressional Republicans that could alienate crucial independent voters. Though the path for Obama remains perilous, Rendell said, “I like the president’s chances.”
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that voters are directing their anger at Washington, and Democrats and Republicans are equally divided on who to blame for a slow economic recovery.
One year out from the 2012 presidential election, a Washington Post-ABC News Poll analyzes Obama’s approval and how he would fare against the top GOP candidates.
Steve Schmidt, who served as senior strategist to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, cast the election year ahead in dark terms.
“It’s a deeply pessimistic time,” he said. “Neither party is talking honestly or directly about the country’s problems and challenges. It’s going to be an extremely mean-spirited campaign, filled with nonstop attack ads. The whole focus will be on disqualifying the alternative, not on the country’s future. It will be very much the opposite of the hope-and-change theme of four years ago.”
In that context, the parties are already jockeying to frame the 2012 election, with Republicans aiming to cast it as an up-or-down vote on the president and Democrats wanting voters to see it as a choice between Obama and his opponent.
“President Obama’s failures have produced the greatest destruction of the middle class since the Great Depression,” said Stuart Stevens, chief strategist for Romney’s campaign. “The upcoming billion dollars of Obama campaign attack ads can’t distort the reality that this will be about President Obama’s record.”
Obama’s chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod, countered: “At the end of the day, presidential elections are always a choice, not a referendum. The American people take a hard look at each candidate and weigh their respective records, qualities, values and visions for the future. Not being the other guy isn’t enough.”
The mood of a nation
The new Washington Post-ABC News poll paints a stark portrait of an agitated electorate that is almost inflexibly divided, with voters awaiting the showdown between Obama and his eventual challenger. About three-quarters see the country as seriously off-track and nearly everyone sees the economy in bad shape.
Little more than a third of all Americans say they believe the economy has begun to recover, based on their own experience. That is markedly lower than the percentage of people who said they sensed the beginning of a turnaround at the end of Obama’s first year in office. Two-thirds doubt they can maintain their standard of living, and half worry they will retire without enough assets to last their lifetime.
Pessimism about the economy is matched by anger with the political system in Washington. An overwhelming majority of the people — eight in 10 — are dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working, including almost one-third — a record in Post-ABC News polls — who say they are angry about it.