|President Barack Obama|
1) The Economy is Improving. The unemployment rate in January of 2012 was 8.3% down steadily from August 2011 9.1% and down greatly from the peak on Obama's watch, i.e. 10% in October, 2009. Further, we appear to have made it out of the double digit recession. GDP was at .4% in the first quarter of 2011, and then went to 1.3% for the second, 1.8% for the third, and no 2.8% for the fourth.
While I believe Presidents get far too much credit for a good economy and far too much criticism for a bad one, it is a political fact of life that Presidents get judged on how the economy does while in office. Obama is now running for re-election with a growing economy that is creating jobs. Likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney stumbled when asked about the improving economy, and suggested it would have improved more were it not for Obama's moves in office. That's not a winning message.
2) Obama is Much Better Suited to Appeal to Economic Populism than Romney. The last few years have seen the rise of two economic populist movements, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (and its variations). Although the former hails from the right and the latter is from the left, they are not unrelated in their philosophy. Both hate the use of government to take money from Main Street and hand it to Wall Street. The Republicans though are on the verge of nominating Mr. Wall Street, a card carrying member of the 1% and a person who supported the corporate bailouts so despise by the Tea Party and Occupy groups. While Obama's supported those bailouts and he is hardly a "man of the people," when your opponent says he is not worried about poor, makes $10,000 bets, and says his making $374,372 to give eight speech is "not much money," it won't be hard for Obama to appeal to the populist sentiment that gave rise to the Tea Party and Occupy crowd.
|Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney|
4) Obama is a Much More Skilled Politician. Romney is a gaffe machine, a person who apparently doesn't think bother to think before he talks. Romney is not trusted by much of the GOP electorate and is barely beating a very weak Republican field. In 2008, Obama beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008, even though Clinton was herself a skillful politician and had far more money and better organization than the NonRomneys who are often beating Romney in the polls.
5) Romney Has Exploitable Baggage. While issues associated with Bain Capital, Romney's tax returns, and hefty speaking fees have only a modest impact in a Republican primary race, that all changes when Romney goes to the general election round. Expect the Democrats to dig up several persons whose lives have been negatively affected by Romney's decisions while leading Bain Capital. It doesn't matter if the strategy is fair or not, the fact is, coming off the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, people aren't going to like a Republican candidate who has the cold business sensibilities of Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life.
It is possible Romney could beat Obama in a general election. After all, the economy could dip sharply before the election propelling Romney. Or President Obama could reverse course from 2008 and run a disastrous political campaign. But while the window is open for a Romney victory, it's only cracked open a few inches.