News / USA

Dim View of Economy Could Spell Trouble for Obama

President Barack Obama answers a question during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 7, 2011
President Barack Obama answers a question during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 7, 2011

In U.S. presidential politics, a new public-opinion poll contains some warning signs for President Barack Obama as he prepares for the 2012 presidential election.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll found the public’s view of the domestic economy is getting worse and Americans increasingly are holding the president responsible.

The Post-ABC poll found that by a margin of 59 to 40 percent, Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy, which remains the top issue for voters looking ahead to next year’s election.

The poll results come on the heels of a worse-than-expected jobs report last week that showed the U.S. unemployment rate ticking up to 9.1 percent, which political experts say is a dangerously high number for an incumbent president seeking re-election.

Obama addressed the issue Tuesday at a White House news conference.

“We have set a path that will lead us to long-term economic growth," he said. "But we still have some enormous work to do, and as long as there are some folks out there who are unemployed looking for work, then every morning when I wake up I am going to be thinking about how we can get them back to work.”

The tepid economic recovery is the top focus of the Republicans who would like to defeat Obama next year.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty unveiled his economic plan in Chicago, which includes cuts in both spending and taxes.

“The president is satisfied with a second-rate American economy produced by his third-rate policies," said Pawlenty. "I am not.”

The Washington Post-ABC News poll found that President Obama would easily defeat most of the Republican presidential contenders if the election were held today. The survey found, though, he is essentially tied with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who continues to lead polls measuring support for the Republican candidates.

A number of recent polls have found many Republicans dissatisfied with the current crop of presidential contenders. But Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour told the CBS program Face the Nation that Republicans can be successful next year if they remain focused on the president’s handling of the economy.

“I think the same thing can happen for us if the election is about Obama’s polices and the results of those policies," said Barbour. "That is the key for the 2012 campaign for Republicans.”

James Carville was a key political adviser to former President Bill Clinton in the 1990’s. Carville told ABC’s Good Morning America the president must do more to show empathy for those Americans struggling to find work or to keep their homes from foreclosure.

“There are any number of things that he can talk about," said Carville. "But boy, he has got to get in there and have his sleeves rolled up and say, 'I am fighting this every day, these are things we are doing and these are the things that we need to do. I understand what is going on in your life.'”

The latest Post-ABC News poll found Obama’s overall approval rating is now down to 47 percent, with 49 percent disapproving of the job he is doing in office. That is down slightly from the ratings boost he got last month in the wake of the U.S. commando raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown said the ratings boost from the bin Laden killing may be a distant memory by the time the U.S. election is held in November of next year.

“Elections are always referendums on the incumbent," said Brown. "When all is said and done, the 2012 election will be about the U.S. economy, the federal budget deficit and how it affects the economy and what Mr. Obama had done about it, and what voters perceive the Republicans would do about it.”

President Ronald Reagan won re-election in 1984 despite a jobless rate of 7.2 percent. But three other presidents seeking re-election with the unemployment rate above six percent did not fare as well. Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush all lost, at least in part, because the jobless rate was high.

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