Superman's Impotence

The U.S. presidential election takes place one year from tomorrow. Three years ago, many believed that election would be about as exciting as a race between a jet airplane and a snail. On the other side of the Atlantic, Barack Obama had been elected by a wide majority. On this side, he was being worshiped as a messiah. Who could possibly block his re-election in 2012?

On the personal level, that question is more justified than ever, but Obama can’t rely on a disorganized field of bizarre Republican candidates. Christian conservatives — with or without the tea party movement — as well as Mormon-backed Mitt Romney have yet to sell themselves to their own party. But a study by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) shows what Obama needs to worry about:

1. Obama’s numbers on whether things are improving for the United States and the country is on the right path are the lowest of any presidential candidate since 1979. A measly 10 to 20 percent think Obama is steering the right course. That’s catastrophic compared to Ronald Reagan in 1983 and George W. Bush in 2004, both of whom had 50 percent approval ratings. Even Jimmy Carter and George Bush Sr. had higher ratings during their latter days in office, despite the fact that they weren’t especially popular with the public and had reached a political dead end.

2. The basis for this negative image is that a mere 15 percent believe they are economically better off than they were before Obama took office, as evidenced by high unemployment, over-indebtedness in the housing market and the possibility of an economic depression.

3. Within key voting groups, approval of Obama’s policies is in free-fall. Only 36 percent of independent voters and less than one-third of white voters believe Obama is doing a good job. To his misfortune, that presents him with a strategic problem; there are far fewer minority voters than there are white middle class voters.

4. Obama is on thin ice regarding many key issues. While he gets high marks for honesty and sincerity, a majority of young people regard Social Security as a “monstrous lie” and an increasing number of voters consider his health care reform initiative a failure.

But don’t misunderstand: Obama will, in all probability, still be in charge of the world’s biggest superpower in 2016. But it will be because of his opponents’ weaknesses and not because of his own strengths.

The supposedly most powerful man on earth has to hope that despite the advantages his opponents now enjoy, their campaigns will eventually bog down, just as happened to Hillary Clinton and John McCain in 2008.

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