Published April 04, 2012
On the first anniversary of President Obama’s announcement of his reelection, he has every reason to be confident.
And with his job approval rating now at 48% in the RCP average, it appears that the president is nearing the crucial 50% mark that gives incumbents a reason to feel comfortable. George W. Bush after all had a job approval rating of 51% on Election Day 2004 when he won a narrow victory over John Kerry.
More to the point, the USA Today/Gallup poll released on Monday showed the president holding an even larger, nine point lead in key swing states – with the president garnering 51 percent support, compared to 42 percent for Romney.
These results are buttressed by specific swing state polls that Scott Rasmussen and others have done in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia – which show President Obama leading Mitt Romney in these key swing states.
While it is likely that he will wrap things up in three weeks with a victory in Pennsylvania, he will still have lost the month of April by being at least partially distracted.
Moreover, Romney’s negative rating of 50% in the most recent ABC News/Washington Post survey exceeds his positive rating (34%) by 16 points – suggesting that the former Massachusetts governor also has to recast his image and offer voters a reason to vote for him so that his campaign is not purely negative.
Why then is the Obama campaign not yet ready to pop the corks on the champagne bottles?
Simply because the economic recovery is anemic, growth is 2.5% or less, unemployment remains unacceptably high at 8.3% and while the president rails against Republican social Darwinism – particularly the Ryan budget plan – it is clear that he is not offering any answers of his own.
As I discuss in my newly released book, "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond" (Rowman and Littlefield) that is what Democrats typically do when they fail to offer policy prescriptions is to turn to populism.
And by attacking the wealthy and the powerful -- the oil companies, the Supreme Court, the banks and the so-called "one percent" – President Obama has made it clear that 2012 is going to be a divisive election campaign rather than one where he tries to offer more inclusive solutions to the nation’s problems.
Indeed, this campaign will probably look very much like the 2004 campaign when George W. Bush and his allies made a much greater effort to demonize John Kerry than to outline a bold vision for a second term—a second term that proved to be, at least on domestic policy, a failure.
Another reason why the Obama campaign is not yet ready to start celebrating is that they understand that, notwithstanding its obvious political vulnerabilities, the Romney campaign and its allies on the right have extraordinary resources – both directly and indirectly through so-called "Super PACs."
And finally, more than three years into his presidency, it is clear that the "hope and change" Obama promised during the 2008 election has not been realized.
In fact, things have gotten worse.
As more and more time passes since his historic election, voters increasingly blame President Obama rather than George W. Bush for the economic problems we are facing -- which is why this election is likely to devolve into one of the ugliest in recent American history.
The Obama campaign has, to be sure, an extraordinary infrastructure across the swing states. They will have close to a billion dollars to spend and control of the bully pulpit in the White House.
What remains unclear is whether the president has a message that will give him 50% +1 from an increasingly angry and restive electorate.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. Schoen, who served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton, is author of several books including the forthcoming "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond" (Rowman and Littlefield). Follow him on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.