Judging by the mood among top political strategists this morning, no one is feeling especially confident about the presidential election.
Veteran Democratic pollster Peter Hart said this morning that it is “no better than an absolutely 50-50 chance for the president to be re-elected. I do not believe all the talk that says the president’s the favorite.” Sara Fagen, former political director in the George W. Bush White House, noted that “there’s so many mixed signals coming out of both polling data and general economic data. If you look at Barack Obama’s job approval rating—48, 49 percent—Bush was sitting there for much of 2004 before being re-elected, it’s certainly not implausible he wins. On the other hand you look at unemployment and underemployment, you look at consumer confidence now stalling, I think that more than any other number is probably most problematic for his re-election prospects.”
On the other hand, noted Republican pollster Glen Bolger, “given the president’s strengths with minority voters, that’s why he’s going to be extremely difficult to beat. … When you have to hold somebody below 40 percent of the white vote to be able to win, that’s tough. That’s very difficult. So if Obama loses it’s going to be extraordinarily close. There’s no Republican landslide for president coming. It’s just not going to happen.”
The group were part of a panel convened by National Journal and United Technologies looking at the election.
Appearing separately, Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said that the biggest problem for President Obama to overcome is that “the fact that he can’t determine what the economy will look like probably is what will cause us or him the most uncertainty.” He specifically noted the price of gasoline could affect the outcome. “At the end of the day if someone is driving to polls to vote and has to stop and get gas first, I’m concerned about what they decide,” Becerra said.