This new Marist poll has to rings some alarm bells in the White House (and keep in mind this tracks registered voters):
Politics and policy from inside Washington
Some excellent points by AllahPundit:
Would he be a unifying, consensus figure? He voted for TARP, the tax on AIG bonuses, and the auto bailout. Some would forgive him for that given his leadership on the 2012 budget, but some — like the libertarian wing — wouldn’t. Meanwhile, Democrats are planning to use his budget proposal to drive a wedge within the party by forcing a vote in the Senate and making centrist Republicans choke on the Medicare and tax provisions. Collins has already said she opposes his program; doubtless there are others. Imagine a presidential campaign where the candidate’s signature piece of legislation is hit with attack ads showcasing opposition from the moderates in his own party.
Like it or not, he’d be a huge risk with seniors given the left’s nascent “Mediscare” campaign against him. In 18 months, for many low-information voters, he’ll be the grinch who wants to take away grandma’s heart medicine to save a few pennies. In fact, Democrats are so giddy about their demagogic opportunities that they think they might be able to target his House seat, never mind a presidential bid. Ryan could and would undo some of that damage on the stump simply through argumentation and personal charm, but he wouldn’t undo all of it. I think the appeal of him running lies mainly in the fact that, given how closely identified he is already with entitlement reform, if he were viable as a potential nominee then that would necessarily mean the public is open to serious action on deficit reduction — which is a glorious thought. Are they? Maybe a little, but how about after another year and a half of bareknuckle scare tactics?
As a gloss on this, read Robert Samuelson’s indictment of the “adult in the room”who somehow never manages to act in a remotely adult fashion when it comes to the country’s long-term fiscal challenges. That’s actually the best argument for a Ryan run — although he’d be a longshot to win, it’d give him six solid months in the general election to expose Obama as a fraud on deficit reduction and hopefully pressure him into ass-saving fiscal action.
This analysis by Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics should give the White House pause:
The six incumbents who have successfully stood for re-election since World War II have enjoyed, on average, growth in per capita real disposable income (RDI) of 11.7 percent over the course of their term. The unsuccessful presidents have fared worse — about 8 percent growth on average.
So far, RDI is up 1.2 percent over the course of the Obama presidency. To hit the 11.7 percent mark over the course of his term, income would have to grow by about 1.4 percent in each of the seven quarters between now and late 2012. Since the 1980s, we’ve had 24 total quarters where RDI growth was above 1.4 percent.
The short-term future prognosis for RDI is not good: It actually shrunk from January to February of 2011. Moreover, government transfer payments and taxes are an important portion of RDI; they actually account for almost all of the RDI growth over the course of the president’s term. But the expiration of the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits at the end of the year will apply further downward pressure to this measure.
The most recent Pew poll suggests that a majority of the country currently characterizes the state of the economy as “poor,” while only 8 percent classify it as “excellent” or “good.” Only 20 percent believe the economy is recovering.
And as Sean also notes, the economy seems to have hit a soft patch: GDP growth has slowed, wages are flat or falling, housing remains ugly. In addition, things like the S&P warning and high borrowing levels may also be undermining voter confidence.
This is how 2012 looks right now to elections guru Larry Sabato:
Here is how the math works: Include the “Leans” states with the “Likely” and “Safe,” the numbers are as follows: 247 Democratic EVs, 180 Republican EVs, 111 Undecided. Just counting “Likely” and “Safe,” the numbers are as follows: 196 Democratic EVs, 170 Republican EVs, 172 Undecided.
Of the tossup states, I would give the Rs IN (11), FL (29) and certainly at least one of VA, NC or OH. Some Leans D in the Upper Midwest are vulnerable, too. Tight as a tubesock!
OK, so Standard & Poor’s has downgraded the outlook for the U.S. to negative, saying it believes there’s a risk policymakers may not reach agreement on how to address the country’s long-term fiscal pressures.
“Because the U.S. has, relative to its AAA peers, what we consider to be very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness, and the path to addressing these is not clear to us, we have revised our outlook on the long-term rating to negative from stable,” S&P said in a release.
Some thoughts here:
1) Did the rather incoherent, hodgepodge nature of Obama’s budget speech last week play a role in this? As I wrote:
Obama’s much-hyped new budget plan is actually neither new nor a budget nor a plan. To the extent that it’s even a “framework” — to grant the White House its preferred descriptor — it’s one whose ideas and goals are precariously fastened together by the chewing gum and sticky tape of rosy economic assumptions and fiscal opacity. Then again, the core purpose isn’t budgetary balance but political persuasion.
And then there was the president’s rhetoric. Recall how Paul Ryan blasted Obama: ”Rather than building bridges, he is poisoning the well.” Here is how S&P puts it:
We view President Obama’s and Congressman Ryan’s proposals as the starting point of a process aimed at broader engagement, which could result in substantial and lasting U.S. government fiscal consolidation. That said, we see the path to agreement as challenging because the gap between the parties remains wide. We believe there is a significant risk that Congressional negotiations could result in no agreement on a medium-term fiscal strategy until after the fall 2012 Congressional and Presidential elections. If so, the first budget proposal that could include related measures would be Budget 2014 (for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2013), and we believe a delay beyond that time is possible.
2) The agency’s shocking note doesn’t mention the debt ceiling debate. But both Rs and Ds may try to use it to their advantage. Rs can argue it means the vote to raise the limit must include real budget reforms and cuts. Ds can say the U.S. fiscal position is precarious enough that this is no time to mess with the debt ceiling. Of course, that line would run counter to the Dem meme that the debt situation is important but not urgent.
3) Financial pros say that even should S&P take the next step and actually downgrade America’s AAA status — the note said there was at least a 1-in-3 chance of that happening within two years — it would likely have little economic impact. As the WSJ notes:
Meanwhile, Dan Greenhaus of Miller Tabak + Co. notes that even if the U.S. lost its premier status, that doesn’t mean the end of the world. “The experience of Canada and Japan show that the loss of a AAA rating is not a death blow,” he writes in a note to clients. “If governmental finances can be adjusted (in the case of Canada) or domestic participants continue to find the debt attractive (in the case of Japan), higher yields on a sustained basis are not assured.”
But that seems a bit too pat to me. Market and consumer psychology is a precarious thing. It might really depend on what else was happening in the world at that time.
4) I hope Republicans don’t let S&P use this warning to bully them into accepting tax increases to get a quick Grand Compromise budget deal. As I wrote a bit earlier today:
Here’s the problem: Any attempt to cut deficits and debt faster than Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity“ would almost certainly have to involve immediate benefit cuts to Medicare and Social Security recipients or higher taxes. And to the extent that S&P’s call will be interpreted as an exhortation to cut now, those Democrats and Republicans (such as those in the U.S. Senate’s Gang of Six) who insist higher taxes must be part of the fiscal fix will have their hand strengthened. But what S&P is really saying is Washington must decide on a plan. Ryan has a plan, the Obama White House does not.
5) Washington types keep telling me that Americans really don’t care about the debt issue. But I think this warning — not to mention an actual loss of the AAA rating — is yet another data point that will sink into our collective head — right along with a trillion-dollar deficit, the EU debt crisis and our financial meltdown which shows too much debt can cause wealth to disappear in a flash.
Sarah Palin rides to the sound of the guns. It was a chilly, wet and blustery afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin — one more appropriate for a late-season Packers game than a springtime political rally. The stirring NFL Films theme, “The Classic Battle,” would’ve been a more apt musical choice than Van Halen’s “Right Now” to accompany Palin as she entered the stage outside the state capital building to address thousands of Tea Party members, along with a good number of extremely hostile, expletive-hurling government union rowdies.
In the last few months, political professionals and insiders have been writing off the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate, convinced she won’t run for the GOP nomination in 2012 or ever. Then again, even those GOPers who are running can hardly compete with the MSM’s weird, all-consuming fascination with The Donald.
But all it took was one powerful, pugnacious and presidential speech — just 15 minutes long — for Palin to again make herself completely relevant to the current political and policy battles raging across America.
She waded forcefully into the state’s white-hot battle over government union power, giving her full-throated support to Gov. Scott Walker: “These are the front lines in the battle of the future for our country. A pension is a promise that must be kept. Scott Walker understands this. He understands that states must be solvent to keep their promises. He’s not trying to hurt union members. Hey folks, he’s trying to save your jobs.”
Then, perfectly capturing the real-time mood of the conservative grassroots, Palin scorched the ever-shrinking budget deal negotiated by congressional Republicans. “We didn’t elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. What we need from you, GOP, is to fight.” She then urged Washington Republicans to take a page from the national champion University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team and “learn how to fight like a girl.”
Finally, it was President Barack Obama’s turn. She defended, to great cheering, Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan from the president’s blindside attack on his bold budget plan. Palin contrasted it with Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan, describing it as a “trillion-dollar travesty.” She mocked his latest economic proposals as naive bets on “really fast trains and solar shingles.” The clincher: “Our president isn’t leading; he’s punting on this debt crisis. Win the future? The only future he wants to win is his re-election.”
That line about fighting like a girl, as well as her “Game on!” declaration will surely reignite speculation about presidential plans. And understandably so. Frontrunner Mitt Romney continues to fashion and refashion a saleable explanation for his Obamacare-esque Massachusetts health plan. And while Tim Pawlenty scored a coup with the hiring of hotshot campaign manager Nick Ayers, his embryonic candidacy is still a work in progress. There’s enough voter unease that another Mitch Daniels boomlet seems to be in progress.
Will she run? Even many of those close to Team Palin have no idea. Palin herself may not have made a decision and may not feel she needs to until the autumn. But as it stands, she arguably represents the purest expression out there of Tea Party passion and free-market populist rejection of Washington’s bipartisan crony capitalism. If she ran, her high-wattage appearance in Madison shows just how dangerous her candidacy would be to a field of solid but stolid opponents.
Here’s how John Nolte of Big Government put it:
If Sarah Palin’s not running for president, what a terrible waste that would be of the single best stump speech I’ve heard since, well, Palin’s ’08 convention speech, which just happened to be the single most electrifying political moment of my adult life. … On this day, Tea Party tax-day, Sarah Palin walked into the heart of this nation’s battle, stared down a gallery of Leftist union goons with poise and grace, and articulated our message as well as anyone ever could. Let’s hope this is just the beginning.
So MSM, keep obsessing over the shiny new Trump toy if you must. But better keep an eye on a certain sharpshooting, grizzly mama. She’s back.
Gallup has Obama’s approval ratings down to 41 percent (with 50 percent disapproving) and just 35 percent among independents. Ratings like this put an incumbent president deep in the red as far as reelection. They just don’t get reelected with ratings under 48 percent — and only a 1/3 chance with a rating of 45 percent.
Quite, says my pal Jay Cost over at TheWeeklyStandard:
President Obama’s overall job approval is split 47-47, but the numbers underneath it are not good at all. On the economy, AP-GfK has him at -6, Gallup at -17, Quinnipiac at -26, and CBS at -14. On health care, AP-GfK has him above water (+4), but Gallup and Quinnipiac have him at -17 and -16, respectively. Meanwhile, check out the right track/wrong track numbers, which are as negative as they have been at any point during Obama’s tenure.
All this tells me that those top line approval numbers are very, very weak for the president. They are probably being propped up by people who are not happy with the way things are going, don’t particularly like the job the president has done with specific issues, but have not yet connected all the dots. Just wait. As the Republican nomination battle begins in earnest, you’re going to see Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and others making the same kind of explicit argument that President Obama is a failure. In other words, they’re going to connect the dots for people, just like Trump did in this interview.
What happens to Obama’s job approval then? What happens when these Republican nominees start linking high unemployment, high gas prices, out of control deficits, and partisan gridlock to Obama?
And Jay can also add in rising interest rates (Fed could be tightening in 2012) and the lousy real estate market. A long way to go to November 2012.
It’s not just the labor market that worries Team Obama:
“We are making progress on jobs and need to make more progress on jobs,” said David Axelrod, a former senior White House aide who is part of Obama’s 2012 campaign team. “But people are also grappling with stagnant wages and rising prices. That’s a legitimate, important concern for people and we have to pay close attention to it.”
So basically, here is where we are. Policymakers have spent the last three years tossing not millions, not billions, but trillions of borrowed dollars at the output gap in the American economy. And what is the result? A fair measurement of unemployment comes in higher than anything we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Real wages are in decline. Food stamp enrollment is at an all time high. Jobs are coming back, but at a painfully slow rate and without very good pay. Growth for this year and next are expected to come in below the historical trend. We’ve created a huge budget deficit, as we’ve borrowed from future generations to cover the output gap from the last couple years. And let’s not forget this one (not that we ever could!
So, for those analysts in the press who think that Obama will win in 2012 if incomes are still being propped up by massive (deficit financed) government spending, real salaries are declining or flat, unemployment is far above the historical trend, good paying jobs are scarce, the deficit is at an all time high, and the president has no real idea about what to do (except, of course, high speed rail), I have only this to say: you might want to think twice before you place that wager. This president is not yet out of the woods on the economy. Not even close.
The piece has some great charts, but I particularly like this one which shows any income bounce is all sugar and steroids:
The Obama 2012 presidential campaign, which has now officially sprung to life, confronts a vexing political puzzle. The unemployment rate is plummeting. After the March jobs report release, White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee pointedly noted that the full percentage-point decline over the past four months is the largest such drop since 1984.
That statistical coincidence dovetails neatly with this David Axelrod-endorsed narrative: Just as Ronald Reagan bounced back from a nasty first-term recession to win re-election in 1984, a jobs rebound will mean four more years for Barack Obama. Got that, MSM? Obama 2012 = Reagan 1984. Now shut your laptops and run along.
But as the Obama political shop has surely noticed, the unemployment rate isn’t the only politically important number on the decline. Simultaneously, their boss’s approval rating has fallen from 51.0 percent on Jan. 24 to 47.4 percent today, according to the RealClearPolitics poll average. A large-sample Quinnipiac survey out last week had Obama at 42 percent. And a recent Reuters-Ipsos poll found that Americans’ confidence in the way the country is going has slumped to its lowest point of Obama’s presidency with 64 percent believing the nation is on the wrong track. Even as more jobs are being created, so are doubts about Obama.
Keep in mind that forecasting models suggest a president with a 50 percent approval rating on Election Day has an 80 percent chance at re-election vs. just a one-in-three chance for an incumbent with a 45 percent rating. And polling analyst Nate Silver notes that every incumbent with an approval rating of 49 percent or higher since World War Two won re-election, while every candidate with a rating of 48 percent or lower lost.
Morning in America 2.0, Mr. Axelrod? More like Threat Level: Midnight. And here’s why: While jobs are growing, incomes are not. And income growth — or the lack of it — political scientists agree, is the economic variable with the most impact on national elections. Strong growth in real disposable personal income led to huge victories for Reagan in 1984, Richard Nixon in 1972 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Weak or negative growth doomed Jimmy Carter in 1980, George Bush in 1992 and John McCain in 2008.
Real disposable personal income fell 0.1 percent in February. Average hourly wages were flat in March, and have grown at a 1.8 percent annualized rate over the past three months, according to the Economic Policy Institute. With inflation running around 2 percent, this means the average American is falling behind, his standard of living dropping. As the Brooking Institution figures things, between October 2010 and February 2011, real hourly and weekly earnings in the private sector fell 1.1 percent.
Even Goolsbee knows those numbers won’t improve a whole lot unless the unemployment rate moves sharply lower. Yet the official White House economic forecast has unemployment averaging 8.6 percent in 2012, not much below the current 8.8 percent rate. (The broader U-6 rate, which includes discouraged workers and part-timers who want full-time gigs, is a sickening 15.7 percent.) JPMorgan economist Michael Feroli thinks a combination of so-so economic growth, a vast pool of unemployed, higher energy prices and the expiration of the 2011 payroll tax cuts means income growth will likely remain “tepid” going forward.
So for now, consider Obama a favorite to win a second term — most presidential incumbents do — but only by the narrowest of margins. If incomes stay stagnant — and if Republicans can nominate someone with a strong, passionate and specific pro-growth economic message — Election Night 2012 could be a long one.