Perhaps sensing just what little sympathy exists for the poor incumbent president, BHO himself and now his vice president have both made remarks recently to emphasize just what an uphill reelection battle Obama faces. After all, everybody loves an underdog.
Speaking at the Atlantic Ideas Forum Thursday in Washington, Vice Pres. Joe Biden said Republicans posed a real threat to Obama’s reelection prospects.
When asked about the Republican Party’s strength, Biden said, “It’s strong enough to beat both of us.”
“Look, no matter what the circumstance, at the end of the day, the American people right now are in real trouble,” Biden continued. “An even larger percentage have stagnant wages. And a significant majority of the American people believe that the country is not moving in the right direction. That is never a good place to be going into re-election, whether it’s your fault or not your fault. It’s almost sometimes irrelevant.”
On the surface, it’s hard to argue with those remarks. “It’s the economy, stupid,” has already been repeated ad nauseum in connection with the 2012 presidential election, and a high unemployment rate — today’s statistics show it still at 9.1 percent — won’t exactly help the president’s reelection bid. As Guy Benson writes, you might say the president is an underdog to reality — and all the more so because facing reality head-on and taking responsibility for his own contributions to the nation’s problems isn’t exactly Obama’s forte.
But, still, we should be careful not to accord Obama “underdog” status too easily. Elisabeth Meinecke offers a list of contests in which the president actually would be the underdog, but reminds us that, as the incumbent with well-stocked campaign coffers, Obama won’t exactly suffer for reelection help. And, while poor economic statistics don’t bode well for the man, the oft-cited correlation between the unemployment rate and reelection isn’t perfect. Since 1945, ten incumbent presidents have run for reelection. When unemployment stood below 6 percent, they won. When it stood above 6 percent, they lost — with one exception. Ronald Reagan was reelected in 1984 when unemployment was 7.2 percent. But, everyone is quick to point out, that was because Reagan inherited particularly high unemployment from Jimmy Carter — and unemployment was on the decline when Reagan was reelected. That won’t be true for Obama, who inherited unemployment of 7.8 percent. In other words, even if the unemployment rate decreases from its present point, Obama’s rate of change is still likely to be lousy. Still, Nate Silver explains, the relationship between unemployment and reelection is “maddeningly inexact.” Given the right mix of other factors, the president will be able to overcome the poor economy to win reelection. Think about it: Mitt Romney and Rick Perry both consistently poll better on the economy than does the president, but they don’t always consistently poll ahead of the president.
Incidentally, the president is a master at exploiting Americans’ love for the underdog. He’s used it to invert American pride in American exceptionalism into American apology for America’s success. He’ll use it to invert American disappointment in his unexceptional presidential performance into American empathy for his plight. But Obama need not be pitied for facing the consequences of his own decisions. If that makes somebody an underdog, we’re all underdogs now.