Economic news bodes ill for Obama re-election bid

By Matthew Rusling
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, June 6, 2012
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A spate of figures including a high jobless rate, reduced consumer confidence and a sluggish first quarter do not look good for U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election chances in November.

On Friday, the U.S. jobless rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent, marking what economists call the flimsiest economic recovery since the Second World War. Unemployment has hovered above the 8 percent mark for more than three years now, and there remain millions of people who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks -- the so-called "long term unemployed."

Friday's disappointing jobs report led to lower consumer confidence by some counts -- on Monday Rasmussen's consumer confidence had sagged five points.

And on Thursday, U.S. first-quarter gross domestic product grew a paltry 1.9 percent, missing economists' already weak 2.2-percent initial estimates.

The news does not look good for Obama, who is running neck-in-neck with Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the lead-up to November's presidential election, in which the economy and jobs overwhelmingly top the list of voters' concerns.

"He's not going to get any help from the economy. The big question for him is ... to make sure the economy just doesn't get much worse," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.


In a bid to counter many voters' perceptions that the president has been a poor steward of the economy, team Obama is blasting the GOP for having what it said was no plan to create jobs and accusing Republicans of blocking a number of Obama's jobs initiatives.

"They need to get off their hands and stop rooting for failure," said Stephanie Cutter, the president's deputy campaign manager, said on ABC's This Week on Sunday.

Top Obama strategist David Axelrod charged Republicans with celebrating bad economic news. "These are the architects of obstruction and now they' re complaining about the pace of the recovery," he said Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation. "They should put down their political hats and join us and help solve these problems."

O'Connell, however, said the finger pointing is hurting rather than helping the president, who ran an uplifting hope-and-change campaign in 2008.

"The one thing that had been keeping Obama afloat for a long time was his likability. And the more he's attacking Mitt Romney ... it's actually hurting him," he said.

Indeed, former Democratic President Bill Clinton, a top Obama fundraiser and ally, in an interview Friday on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight contradicted Democrats' populist attacks on Romney for his record as a wealthy executive.

"I think he had a good business career," Clinton said, adding that Romney had a "sterling" career and that he himself has friends in private equity, Romney's former line of work.

In a Gallup poll released Monday, challenger Romney had a 49 percent to 45 percent edge over Obama among middle-income voters -- those whose annual household income is between 36,000 U.S. dollars and 89,999 U.S. dollars per year. Romney has the same lead among upper-income voters, while Obama maintains a wide advantage among lower-income voters.

Still, the two candidates are running neck-in-neck, with the most recent Real Clear Politics poll average showing Obama leading by nearly 2 points, which is not enough to make a real difference, experts said.

"(Friday) was a pretty devastating jobs report and it reminded people how fragile this economic recovery is," said Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "That said, it remains to be seen whether people think Romney could do a better job."

"Although President Obama's numbers on handling the economy are more negative than positive, the two candidates are at this point, pretty evenly matched on handling the economy," she said.

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