Democratic strategists are concerned about a potential trifecta of bad news this month that could sink President Obama's re-election chances.
Actually, the first in the series of feared setbacks happened Tuesday, when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker easily won his bid to survive a recall election despite bitter opposition from Democrats and organized labor. Walker's Democratic opponents threw everything they could at him and tried to caricature Walker as a right-wing zealot who ended collective-bargaining rights for most state workers and would go to even more extremes if he stayed in office. But, propelled by a huge advantage in fund-raising and paid TV ads, Walker won comfortably, which could demoralize Democrats.
Republicans say this is a major warning sign for Obama. They say his advocacy of activist government and support for unions and other traditionally Democratic interest groups are out of step with voters. GOP leaders argue that the Wisconsin result was a reaffirmation of conservative principles. Obama had been relying on Wisconsin as part of his coalition for 2012. Now Wisconsin is considered a battleground state that could go either for Obama or GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
The second potential setback for Obama and the Democrats would be a Supreme Court ruling that strikes down all or part of the administration's signature health-care law. The high court is expected to rule on the law's constitutionality in the next few weeks. If the law is thrown out or seriously weakened, Obama could look like a hapless figure who spent many months pushing Congress to approve the controversial law, only to have it voided. The Republicans would be sure to say that Obama's policies are not only flawed, but his competence is also in question..
The third and most important of the potential setbacks is continued trouble in the economy, illustrated by minimal job creation and a rising unemployment rate. The economy created relatively few jobs last month and the unemployment rate increased from 8.1 to 8.2 per cent, and, in addition, many Americans are under-employed.
Some of the people hardest hit are groups that Obama is counting on to pull him through to re-election. They include young people, Latinos, and African Americans.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Facebook and Twitter.