A month ago, the RNC officially named Mitt Romney its presumptive nominee and signed a partnership agreement to raise funds for the presidential election. The Barack Obama campaign responded by launching its own campaign against Romney. Team Obama and the DNC hit Romney on his track record at Bain Capital, rolled out its “Life of Julia” to attract support from women, especially single professionals, and both campaigns put their rapid-response teams on full alert.
Who won the first round? The latest ABC News/ Washington Post presidential poll shows Mitt Romney gaining strength, at least in terms of favorability, especially in two key demographics: independent voters and women. Romney’s favorability among women increased by 13 points in the first month of the head-to-head campaign while Obama dropped seven points. ABC reports that most of those gains came from single women – the very demographic targeted by Obama with its “Life of Julia” campaign and the attacks on Romney over the supposed Republican “war on women.”
Clearly, Obama has gotten off to a bad start, despite having a one-year jump on the general election campaign over Romney’s organization. The days of talking about a billion-dollar juggernaut for Obama have long since passed. With Obama only two points ahead of Romney in the Real Clear Politics poll average at 45.7 percent/43.7 percent -- well below the 50 percent level an incumbent should have at this stage of a challenge – Obama and his team look a lot more vulnerable than most people imagined.
Could Barack Obama lose this election? This month makes it look a lot more possible than some imagined, and the months ahead are full of pitfalls. Some of the variables are largely out of his control, such as job creation over the summer. Hiring has dropped off the last two months, and a new job report out tomorrow is expected to continue the streak of mediocrity at 165,000.
Policy changes at this point would not take effect for months, though a quick resolution to the CBO’s “Taxmageddon” of tax hikes and scheduled spending cuts might produce enough relief in the investment community to spark a hiring rally. That would require Obama to cut a deal with Republicans in Congress on tax rates, and so far, neither party has suggested even a formula for a compromise.
If Obama wants to win this election, he can’t depend on the promise of another mirage Recovery Summer. The President has to address five pitfalls into which he and his campaign have already stumbled if he wants to remain President.
1 – Repair relations with the business community. Frankly, this might be as far out of Obama’s hands as the dysfunctional job-creation engine of the US economy, and for related reasons. Obama has dumped a ton of expensive new regulation onto businesses, either directly through Dodd-Frank and the PPACA (ObamaCare), or indirectly through onerous restrictions on power production, especially on coal, which supplies 46 percent of all electrical power in the US. Larger businesses mind regulation less; they have economies of scale which make them more efficient at compliance, which puts smaller competitors at a disadvantage.
Unfortunately for Obama, he can’t exploit that difference. Obama has spent most of the last eight months alienating Wall Street with his class-warfare rhetoric. That spawned the Occupy movement, with a big organizing boost from labor unions, both of which created no small amount of resentment in the investor class. Obama has tried to mollify these potential donors, many of whom have refused to donate to Obama after watching the mask slip for most of the past year. That brings us to …