Obama’s ‘resurgence’ is temporary

Since stating here last October that Barack Obama cannot possibly secure reelection, I have caught a lot of flak. Even some conservatives and Republicans find such prognostication to be premature, borderline irrational, even a little anti-intellectual. It offends empiricists who insist that more data must surely come in before we call the election outcome — “Hey, CBS won’t call the election until after the polls close on election night.” Others seem to resent that I’m ruining the fun they’ll have following the campaigns throughout the months ahead, like some ex-NFL player who spoiled your Super Bowl party on Sunday by announcing pre-kickoff that he had inside information Eli would triumph. Why watch, when it’s a fait accompli?

I am hearing from those critics this week. First, there was January’s lower unemployment rate, announced a few days ago, then the ABC-Washington Post poll that has Obama over 50 and smoking Romney by 6 to 9 points in a trial heat. The second-guessers are all over my case — “See, the economy can turn around and even a weakened Obama can beat a greedy business rascal like Mormon Romney.”

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This faux bounce is only going to make matters worse for Obama. We are going to hear a lot of words like “resurgent,” “buoyant,” “comeback” and “revived” in the days ahead to describe the Obama candidacy. But when reality takes over, the inevitable fall back to earth will be more painful for the president’s loyalists. Then we’ll see words and phrases like “aborted recovery,” “dashed hopes” and “lost opportunities.” Trust me on this: The bump of hitting the ground again after an aborted takeoff hurts much worse than the first swoon.

Let’s get real about this one batch of good employment data. I follow this sort of news closely, like a Bluetick hound on the trail of an escaping felon, and we have been getting occasional good news every month for several years now. But bad news always supplants happy reports like last week’s. The University of Michigan has its consumer confidence data slated for Friday release. It may be good news or bad. There’s new stuff out there like this every week. Next week we get data on retail sales, housing starts, inventories, producer price index, consumer price index and a lot of other stuff. Think those new index scores will all bring good news? Think again. Optimistically, it might work out that half the time the news is good over the next few months. But it won’t be enough to save this presidency. Why? Because bad news travels much faster than good news, is more credible in the current economic slough we’re in, and we have so far to go to get where we want to be that good news, even half the time, won’t be enough. We’ll still be miles from our destination when November arrives. So go ahead, you buoyant optimists, try to soar, but put on headgear and fasten your seatbelts.

Some of the data supporting resurgence is phony, too. The ABC-Post polling was grotesquely biased, as Romney pollster Neil Newhouse has aptly pointed out. Asking the presidential ballot as the 32nd poll question, immediately after asking negative push questions against Romney, is something I would expect from a sleazy, third-tier congressional challenger campaign pollster, not from a major media outlet. That other polling organizations are thankfully not running push-poll operations explains why none of the other major public polls has replicated ABC’s big lead for Obama. It’s also telling that the same ABC poll has the public disapproving of Obama’s performance, by wide margins, on “the economy” and “the federal budget deficit.” What else is there?

People pushing this Obama resurgence nonsense are going to get burned. It’s a fantasy.

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.