By Josh Lederman - 06/09/12 10:44 AM EDT
President Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in a tightening race for the White House with just 150 days to go before Election Day.
Polls show the two dead even nationally, with Obama enjoying perhaps a slight edge in the dozen or so swing states that will decide the contest.
Yet the president’s reelection hopes have been dimmed by a dismal few weeks capped by a bleak jobs report and the president’s own gaffe on Friday at a hastily arranged press conference where he said the private sector is “doing fine.”
“I think he's defining what it means to be out of touch with the American people,” Romney said a few hours later.
The blowback over Obama’s remark undercut his attempt on Friday to shift some of the blame onto Congress for lagging job creation. Obama suffered a major setback from a May jobs report showing that hiring has slowed to a snail’s pace and the unemployment rate has ticked up a tenth of a point to 8.2 percent.
Add to that an embarrassing defeat for Democrats in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial election on Tuesday, the $16 million by which Romney outraised Obama in the month of May and the abject failure by Democrats to stay on message about Romney’s business career, and you wind up with a week of brutal headlines for Obama.
“What you saw in Wisconsin is something that can be replicated all over America,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told The Hill after the GOP’s recall victory. “Governing like you campaign, following through on promises, taking a reasonable approach as to how you’re going to curb the size and growth of government.”
If the presidential race has tightened, so too has the topsy-turvy battle for control of the Senate.
Republicans are enticingly close to peeling off the four seats they need to regain control of the upper chamber (three if Obama is not reelected), but Democrats still seem like they have a chance to just barely hold on to the majority.
Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren has been on the receiving end of six weeks of relentless pummeling over revelations that she claimed minority status as a faculty member at multiple law schools despite being unable to prove she has any ancestors who were Native American. But her opponent, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), is still one of the most vulnerably senators up for reelection.
Brown shares that distinction with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who polls show in a dead heat with the three Republicans vying to unseat her. In neighboring Nebraska, Democratic prospects for holding on to retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) seat have diminished now that state Sen. Deb Fischer is the GOP nominee.
In the race for the House, the once-per-decade redistricting process finally came to a close on Friday when the last state to adopt new congressional lines — Kansas — finally released its new map.
Democrats and Republicans have squabbled over which party more effectively shored up their members and opened up new pickup opportunities through redistricting, but most observers have said that redistricting on a national level was essentially a wash.
Republicans have gained some traction in key House races by tying Democratic candidates to Obama in states where voters have soured on the president. In public, Democrats continue to speak optimistically about the prospect of flipping the 25 seats they need to wrest back control of the House. But the more likely prospect is that Democrats will pick up a dozen or more seats, but fall short of the magic 25.
The next big test for where the momentum lies will come Tuesday, when voters in southern Arizona head to the polls in a special election to replace former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Republican Jesse Kelly faces Democrat Ron Barber — a former Giffords aide – in the contest to finish Giffords’s term. The campaign arms of House Democrats and House Republicans have both injected hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race, ensuring that the outcome and the exit polls will be scrutinized from every possible angle for signs of which party has the loyalty of voters less than five months out from Election Day.