Commentary by Pete du Pont
October 21, 2011
Source: Wall Street Journal
Just two years ago it seemed highly unlikely that Barack Obama would turn out to be a one-term president. But looking at voters’ frustrations with our continuing economic problems and the growth of federal government intrusiveness during Mr. Obama’s first term, more and more commentators are saying this may actually come to pass. Of course a lot can happen over a year, and we should never underestimate the power of incumbency (or the benefit Democratic presidents have with the press).
The question is whether, even with these advantages, the president can possibly win re-election without significant good news on the economic front. The other question is: If Obama does lose, what will the new Republicans in the White House and, presumably, Congress do, and what should they do?
The current polls are not encouraging for the president. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows him trailing a generic Republican by 6%. Gallup shows the generic Republican up by 8%, and the ABC News/Washington Post poll finds 11% more disapprove than approve of the president. Rasmussen has strong presidential approval at 19% and strong disapproval at 41%. The Real Clear Politics average last week shows just 17% think our nation is on the right track, and 76% think it is on the wrong track. Rasmussen also reports that just 16% of likely voters think the country is headed in the right direction, down 16 points from last year.
Now comes an Investors Business Daily/TIPP survey showing, according to IBD, that a “majority of Americans now oppose giving President Obama a second term, and that by 51%41% respondents in October picking ‘someone new deserves a chance,’ over Obama ‘deserves to be re-elected.’ Among independents it was 54% – 36%”.
And it gets worse. The current ABC News/Washington Post polling finds that 55% of American people believe a Republican will win the election, and 37% that Obama will win. Democrats expect to win by 58% to 33% percent, while Republicans believe they will win 83% to 13%. By 54% to 36%, independents think a Republican will beat Mr. Obama.
Nile Gardiner of London’s Daily Telegraph reports that Gallup polling shows “little confidence among the public that the administration’s big government approach is going to succeed in creating jobs and getting the economy back on its feet.” Fiftysix percent of Americans are very dissatisfied with the ways things are going in our country. Only 11% are satisfied and 1% very satisfied.
In addition there are numerous presidential prediction models and most of them are heavily influenced by the economy in the period leading up to the elections. With our country’s current economic weakness and little hope for material improvement in the upcoming year, it is doubtful that these models will provide much comfort for the White House.
More important is to think through what America’s public policies will be if Republicans control the White House, the Senate and House come January 2013. Simply put, if Republicans win they will reduce federal spending hopefully back to where it was as a percentage of GDP in the 15 years before 2009. One may also hope they will balance the budget and scale back the intrusiveness of the federal government. Already Congress has made progress in expanding free trade, having just approved new trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Most important are the reduction of unemployment back to 4% or 5% and repeal of the Dodd-Frank law, which is estimated to cost America 4.6 million jobs by 2015. Rolling back the regulation of energy is also needed to unleash our potential.
Add in the repeal of ObamaCare, and we would move away from government intrusion and regulation of health care, allowing us to make the changes necessary to give people more individual choices, give Medicare enrollees more flexibility and choice, and provide more flexibility to our states in handling Medicaid.
We need to reform the tax code, too—reduce deductions and credits and put in place lower tax rates for everyone, which will help get the economy going forward again. Everything from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax reform plan to the president’s own ErskineBowles commission recommendations has recognized the folly of our current tax system and the wisdom of lower rates and a broader tax base.
As Mr. Gardiner concluded in his article, the Obama administration “is a presidency in crisis, lacking leadership, wedded to the wrong policies, and presently heading for defeat in 2012.” Time will tell, but as the polls show Americans becoming more frustrated by the consequences of Obama’s policies, that conclusion seems just about right.