Democrats complaining about my judgment that President Obama cannot win reelection insist there’s still a chance. It is reminiscent of the Jim Carrey character in the movie “Dumb and Dumber,” when he asks the pretty girl if he has a chance with her. She replies that the chances are not good. He persists, asking if his chances are, like, 1 in 100. She says no, “more like 1 in a million.” He pauses and ponders before getting a huge smile on his face and exulting, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”
The Democrats also seem to remain optimistic that the nation’s economy might improve, thereby removing an impediment to Obama’s reelection. Actually, if you look and listen closely, Democrat strategists don’t speak so much of a broad-based economic recovery as a modest reduction in unemployment. They seem to presume that a decline of a few percentage points in joblessness will flip Obama’s numbers. They pay rapt attention to each release of employment figures as if the Oracle of Delphi is speaking. That’s dumber than dumb. Our economic funk is so deep and complex that unemployment isn’t even the president’s biggest economic problem.
Polls that I have been reading suggest that Americans’ economic insecurities include concerns about government deficits, angst about the stock market and retirement security and the decline of the housing market. I think we can all agree that the nation’s debt won’t be paid down, even a little of it, by next November. So even if Obama proposes a balanced budget in January (and he won’t), the accumulated debt of repeated annual deficits will still vex him throughout the campaign.
There is a better chance, perhaps in line with Carrey’s optimistic “1 in 100” odds, that the stock market will improve next year. Wall Street, forward-looking as it is, will actually anticipate Obama’s removal and celebrate with a boom in equity values. The problem for Obama is that most of the people who blame Washington for the drubbing their investments took since 2007 have never ventured back into the market. Perhaps they cannot, having lost most of the value in their retirement accounts before selling out at the bottom. When the market recovers, they will simply resent the success of others and brood over past losses. They are the silent wing of the Occupy Wall Street movement that still has to work to eat. They cannot vote to reelect Obama. It would be like affirming their failures. So they will vote for change, or no one at all.
The biggest problem in the economy from Obama’s perspective, however, is the housing downturn. An August survey by FICO of a nationwide sampling of banking risk managers found that most foresee little recovery in housing before 2020; and 73 percent anticipate rising foreclosures for five more years. When voters drive to the polls next November, past those “For Sale” signs and foreclosed properties blighting their neighborhoods, they’ll know what to do. You can take that prediction to the bank.
David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.