With the Iowa caucuses 62 days away and Election Day 2012 only a year off, President Obama's prospects look perilous. Yet the GOP contest remains volatile. What can we deduce about the race to come—other than that Herman Cain has had a bad week that's far from over?
Since NBC began asking the question in 1989, no president has won re-election with as many Americans—74%—saying a year before the election that the country is "on the wrong track."
Nor has any president been re-elected with so few Americans—13%—telling Gallup that they are "satisfied" with how things are going in the country.
And no president has been re-elected a year after having a job-approval rating as low as Mr. Obama's is today—43%—since Gallup began asking the question in 1945.
Since 1952, consumer-confidence numbers have been higher at this point even for presidents who failed to win re-election than they are for Mr. Obama today. He is presiding over an economy that registered a 60.9 rating in last month's University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment report.
It's unlikely that positive economic news will alter these numbers dramatically before next November. Through 2012, the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve and even the White House Office of Management and Budget all forecast unemployment around the current level of 9.1% and anemic growth of between 2% and 2.7 percent.
Still, Mr. Obama cannot be counted out. It is folly to believe that any Republican can beat him. The president and his team lack the ability to run on a positive record but they can run a negative campaign designed to disqualify the GOP nominee. Such a strategy will be ugly, but it could also be successful.
Karl Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor and author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010). To continue reading his column in The Wall Street Journal, click here.