Two Scandals Could Hurt Obama’s Reelection Lead
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The Fiscal Times
April 18, 2012

President Obama ventured into the Rose Garden Tuesday morning to announce new measures to crack down on oil market manipulation and address soaring gas prices. But as he departed, a television reporter shouted out the burning question of the hour:  Would the director of the U.S. Secret Service resign?

Obama ignored the question.

With more and more unsavory details leaking out about the Secret Service Colombia sex scandal, it would come as no surprise if Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan were shown the gate before too long. The Obama White House has no compunction about firing underlings to try to blunt political controversy.

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But it’s unlikely this mushrooming scandal will disappear any time soon, amid reports that nearly a dozen U.S. Secret Service agents and more than five military personnel caroused and consorted with prostitutes at a hotel  in advance of Obama’s Colombia visit last week. And this comes on top of congressional  hearings this week  into revelations that General Services Administration officials squandered $823,000 on a Las Vegas retreat back in 2010 – complete with a $75,000 bicycle building exercise, a clown show and $6,325 spent on commemorative coins.

"No wonder the American people have lost faith in their government. I want indictments!"

So far, at least a half dozen  House and Senate committees have opened investigations into the GSA and Secret Service scandals, with many other Republicans seemingly eager to join in the finger wagging and condemnations. “As I look through this, there’s no wonder that the American people have lost faith in their government,” lamented freshman Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa. “I want indictments!” declared Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

Before all this misery beset the administration, it looked as if Obama had turned the corner on the economy and was back in the political catbird’s seat heading into the fall election campaign. While unemployment, economic growth and the housing market still left much to be desired, Obama could make the plausible argument that he had succeeded in leading the country out of the worst financial meltdown and recession of modern times, that he saved the U.S. auto industry by bailing out GM and Chrysler, and that he restored investor and consumer confidence

By contrast, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, had been so brutally savaged by his  GOP primary rivals as a flip-flopper, liar and faux conservative – and had done such a good job of alienating women and Hispanic voters – that the November election was shaping up as a cakewalk for Obama.  Romney was dismissed by liberal critics and pundits as a  politically tone deaf multi-millionaire aristocrat who boasted about enjoying firing incompetent people, who said he wasn’t worried about poor people and who confided that his wife owned two Cadillacs.

But practically overnight, the whole complexion of the contest has changed. The race has begun to tighten, based on fresh polling; economic trends are getting worrisome again, and the European debt crisis has taken another bad turn.

OBAMA’S POLLS TAKE A HIT
The Gallup Organization’s inaugural daily tracking poll had Romney leading Obama by two  percentage points, 47 percent to 45 percent, while Rasmussen Tracking had Romney up by one point. Obama led Romney by nine points in a CNN/Opinion Research poll, 52 percent to 43 percent, and Reuters/Ipsos had the president up by four points.

Moreover, fresh analyses of the electoral map by RealClearPolitics, the Washington Post and other news organizations show that Romney begins the general election campaign with 170 of the 270 electoral votes he would need to win the election. In order to pick up the additional 100 electoral votes, Romney only needs some states that routinely went to Republicans before the 2008 race (namely Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Montana)  while retaining a few states that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., managed to win – including Arizona and Missouri.

Washington Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief Eric Pianin is a veteran journalist who has covered the federal government, congressional budget and tax issues, and national politics. He spent over 25 years at The Washington Post.