The bleak state of the country, and the public’s dim assessment of President Obama’s job performance and of the general state of national affairs all strongly suggest to me that he’ll lose his re-election bid. But there is some chance that this time things will be different and an incumbent can get re-elected even though things are bad. Surveys like the most recent Pew poll that put people’s assessment of the president side by side with their assessment of other things tend to indicate relatively strong numbers for Obama.
The gap between favorable and unfavorable views of the Democratic and Republican parties, for example, is large and growing even though both parties are viewed negatively. Similarly, a later result shows that Obama is more popular than congressional Democratic leaders who are more popular than congressional Republican leaders and, again, with the gap growing.
One question about this is the extent to which a Republican presidential nominee, when he emerges, will be somehow untainted by the battles in Washington. Neither Rick Perry nor Mitt Romney has served in Congress, and may be able to argue that their approach to governoring in Texas/Massachusetts shows they have the savvy to get things done that current leaders in DC from both parties lack. Voters have shown themselves repeatedly to be really eager to embrace the idea that what national politics needs is different personalities (Bush was going to “change the tone” long before Obama was “post-partisan”) rather than recognize that we’re facing structural trends. Clearly, though, Obama’s winning strategy is to argue that whoever he faces is just part of a broad GOP Borg. Another question is whether there’s any chance of a Switcheroo Election. On its face, these polls seem to be pointing to President Perry and Speaker Pelosi. I remain skeptical about that outcome given the general decline of ticket splitting (and the fact that it doesn’t really make), but it should would set off a fun post-election War Of The Columnists to define the nature of the mandate.