No he can’t?
Three reasons why Obama could lose in 2012.
Many who voted for him in 2008 are disillusioned.
As a figure who represented racial, political and generational change, Obama won 64 percent of the 18–29 vote—and created expectations no President could fulfill. Having voted for Obama, the college graduates of the Occupy movement are now skeptical that politicians or elections can solve their economic woes. They won’t vote for Romney, but they may revert to young America’s traditional partisan stance: apathy. Obama has also disappointed members of what his press secretary called “the professional left,” who believe he lacks passion and is too willing to compromise with Republicans.
“The youth voters he was able to communicate to [in 2008] were the ones who believed in what he stood for, beyond the ‘hope and change,’ ” says Josh Noah, president of College Democrats at Northwestern University. “A lot of it had to do with health care, providing jobs for those coming out of college. He needs to communicate these issues again and inspire them…[to say,] ‘While the economy is doing poorly right now, I’m the one who’s going to help you get jobs for the future, and I’m the one who’s going to help make the American Dream possible for your generation.’”
Obama’s also become unpopular with independents, a crucial voting bloc. In spring 2009, 65 percent of independents approved of his job performance, while 24 percent disapproved, according to a CBS/New York Times poll. By this month, those numbers had flipped to 39 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval. The independent vote is strong in the nation’s suburbs, such as the North Shore, which gave Obama a huge margin in 2008 (he won wealthy suburbs as a whole by an average of 12 percentage points) but also sent Republican Mark Kirk to the U.S. Senate.
But those voters are stockholders, and they’ve lost faith as their 401ks have lost value. “They’re not ideological voters,” Chinni says. “Their vote swings on where the economy is. Cultural issues, social issues are not important there. A lot of those people are extremely unhappy with him.”
Saving grace Obama is now tied with a generic Republican opponent among independent voters, according to Gallup, making up a 21-point deficit in two months. And this fall has seen the emergence of Give ’em Hell Obama—a President who’s making a full-throated defense of popular Democratic policies. That’s the guy voters want to send back to the White House.
Edward McClelland is author of Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President (Bloomsbury Press).