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Tuesday, November 1, 2011
One Year to Go
Rick Wiley, RNC Political Director
November 1, 2011
One Year to Go
With one year to go, the headwinds President Obama faces in his fight to get re-elected are approaching gale-force.
A Gallup study released this week shows Republican Party affiliation is on the rise. Enthusiasm among Republicans remains high while Democrat enthusiasm remains far lower than what it was in 2008 (a CNN study showed that 79% of Democrats were "very enthusiastic" in 2008 versus only 43% today). By most accounts Obama's donors are much more tepid in their support than they were in 2008. Satisfaction with his administration's policies continues to fall across the ideological spectrum. The country remains in a sour mood and even more pessimistic than when Obama took office (the current RealClearPolitics average shows 75% believing the country is on the wrong track, and a Time Magazine survey in September showed 81%). And according to Gallup, Obama's 43% national approval rating is, at this point in the third year of a first term, lower than any President in the last 60 years except Jimmy Carter, not good company to keep.
Obama's strategy -- when not issuing Executive Orders -- appears to be to hit the road again, with trips to friendly places like Hollywood to fill his war chest and bus-rides through less-friendly battleground states to pander for votes. These less-friendly states are of course where Obama's fate will be decided. To our advantage, since 2008 the GOP has picked up governor's mansions in 9 "Obama states" representing 131 electoral votes. Adding this increase in organizational strength to the states won by John McCain means the Republican nominee will have an expanded path to election. With almost no chance of extending the battleground map into states McCain carried, Obama faces an uphill battle to defend the 'red' and 'purple' states he carried in 2008. To make matters more difficult, the President is weak in a slew of reliably 'blue' states where he will have to spend considerable resources to keep them in his column.
To his campaign's credit, their choice of destinations for the President shows they know just how difficult their Electoral College path will be. His recent trip through Virginia and North Carolina is a perfect example. These reliably 'red' states, which hadn't voted Democratic in a Presidential election since 1964 and 1976 respectively, are loaded with voters who have buyer's remorse. Polling data in each state shows Obama below water. Virginia snapped quickly back to the GOP column in 2009, and Obama's 2008 margin in North Carolina has already been eclipsed by the number of people who have lost their job since then. Indiana -- another reliably red state with a narrow 2008 margin -- has been all but written off by Obama's team. If Obama loses these states and remains unable to widen the map, the GOP nominee will be only 51 Electoral Votes away from the White House.
Forty-seven of the remaining Electoral Votes necessary for the GOP nominee could come from the perennial bellwethers of Ohio and Florida alone. Ohio has voted with the national winner in each of the last ten Presidential elections, Florida has done so in nine of the last ten. With a year to go in these battlegrounds, Obama's re-elect numbers in these states are 44% and 41% respectively, and majorities of voters in each state disapprove of the job he's done. If these states were to fall, then there are numerous possibilities for the remaining four Electoral Votes needed by the GOP nominee to win.
States like Nevada - where unemployment and foreclosure rates have skyrocketed - or Iowa, Colorado, or New Mexico -- where George W. Bush was victorious in 2004 -- could each push a Republican nominee across the finish line. Furthermore, if otherwise-reliable blue prizes like Michigan or Pennsylvania, where polling shows even lower job approval numbers than Florida and Ohio, were to switch to the GOP column, then the number of bank-shots Obama will need through the Electoral College will be nearly impossible to make. Other, smaller 'blue' states like Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Washington aren't exactly "gimmes" either.
One year is an eternity in politics. Much can happen and much will change between now and Election Day. But with one year to go, the President's climb to be re-elected is getting steeper by the day.