President Obama is a man whose re-election should be in trouble based on the current state of the economy and perceptions about his handling of it. The economy is still bad and unemployment has remained pretty terrible during the entirety of Obama’s tenure. That is why currently 52 percent of the American people still say the economy/jobs is the number one problem in the country, and on that issue Obama gets a very poor score.
The Washington Post/ABC news found only 42 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, while 55 percent disapprove. The NBC/WSJ poll had nearly identical results with 43 percent approving of his handling of the economy and 52 percent disapproving. In addition the latter poll found that on a host of economic issues a plurality believes Obama has actually made things worse: 37 percent think Obama’s approach to the economic downturn made things worse compared to just 31 percent who think he made it better. Similarly, 32 percent think he made the housing market worse and just 24 percent think he made it better. On gas prices it is 37 percent worse and just 11 percent better.
A President with poor marks on the economy, running for re-election during a bad economy and with the economy the number one issue should have some serious political problems. Yet both recent polls show him with a small lead. The Post/ABC poll has Obama leading by three, and the NBC/WSJ poll has Obama up by four.
I can only assume that Obama continues to lead in large part because even though the American people think Obama has done a poor job with the economy, they doubt Romney could do better. The ABC poll had Obama and Romney completely tied on the questions of who they think would do a better job with the economy and job creation. More telling, the NBC poll found 32 percent are “extremely” or “quite” confident Obama has the right policies to improve the economy, while just 19 percent feel that way about Romney. The country thinks Romney would either be no better or perhaps worse on the number one issue in this election.
The Romney campaign has tried to make his business prowess a main selling point, as proof that he could better handle the economy. But so far that strategy appears to have failed. What is supposed to be Romney’s greatest strength is at best a wash. Romney doesn’t even need to be seen as being able to do a great job on the economy to win the issue. He just needs to be seen as able to do better than the poor job Obama has done, yet Romney hasn’t managed to clear that low bar.
As we get closer to the election this could change, but as it currently stands the Romney team has a lot of work to do on this issue. This election could easily turn into a referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy, but not if the alternative is seen as even less capable of handling the challenge.