Obama’s second debate with Romney could decide the race

In view of the many ups and downs in the U.S. presidential election campaign lately — a disastrous performance by president Obama in his first debate with Mitt Romney followed by an offensive rescue mission by vice president Biden in his debate with Paul Ryan — Tuesday evening’s second debate between Obama and Romney could be decisive.

Helped by Biden, who said everything to Ryan that Obama did not say but should have said to Romney, and who instilled new hope among despondent Democrats, Obama needs to step up and do well and, thereby, re-take the initiative and the lead in the polls that he lost after his debacle.

All indications are that the race has tightened and that Obama’s poor performance let Romney back in the race. But the polls also show that although the race is even nationally, it has not changed that much in the battleground states, particularly the key state of Ohio, where Obama still leads, although less so, by 2,2 percentage points according to RealClearPolitics. No Republican presidential candidate has ever won without winning in Ohio, so much depends on the Buckeye State and its 18 electoral votes.

The winner on November 6 needs a minimum of 270 electoral votes. In 36 of the 50 States, the outcome is already decided – Romney will win in 22 and Obama in 14. But since Obama’s victories will come in more populous state, he is ahead in the battle for electoral votes.

The outcome of the election will be decided primarily in nine states with a total of 110 electoral votes.FiveThirtyEight, the New York Times blog, recently described the situation in these nine states as following: Colorado (9) even; Florida (29) even; Iowa (6) leaning toward Obama; Nevada (6) leaning toward Obama; New Hampshire (4) probably Obama; North Carolina (15) probably Romney; Ohio (18) leaning toward Obama, Virginia (13) even; and Wisconsin (10) probably Obama.

On the betting site Intrade, 62.8 percent predict an Obama victory. Let’s see what they say after Tuesday’s debate!


Something has happened, but is it a turning point?

Something has happened after the Republican and Democratic conventions. There’s talk of a turning point, but I am not sure about that.

It is clear, however, that President Obama has expanded his lead over Mitt Romney in all the polls. In the latest Gallup, for example, Obama has increased his lead from 47 to 46 percent before the conventions to 50 to 44 percent now.

We don’t know if this new trend will hold, but nervousness seems to have increased among Republicans. Conservative columnist Michael Gerson in the Washington Post:

“With less than two months until the election, Romney is left with dwindling opportunities to reshape the dynamic of the race.”

No reason to worry, pleads conservative National Review in an editorial, in which it admits that Obama and the Democrats had a better convention:

“Romney is nonetheless in the hunt, and he may even enjoy the great advantage, in politics as in life, of being underestimated.”

And in today’s Washington Post, Dana Milbank describes a press conference with Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, to which the party’s vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan belong, where Romney’s name never even came up. Not once. Symptomatic of Romney’s problems?

Even wise, independent political observer Charlie Cook at the National Journal points to a number of problems in the Romney campaign, which have resulted in a campaign that should not be this close with such a weak national economy.

So something has happened. Is it permanent? Probably not. There is too much left of the campaign and too much, like now in Libya, can happen. Meanwhile, all eyes are on October 3 and the first of three televised debates between Obama and Romney.

Obama’s poll numbers up says Gallup

The first preliminary Gallup poll numbers are in after the two conventions, and the numbers are up for president Obama.

Obamas approval rating has jumped to 52 percent, the highest since May 2011, and he increased his 47 to 46 percent lead over Mitt Romney to 48 to 45 percent among registered voters in the election tracking.

The latest figures don’t include last night’s speech by Obama. They also don’t include today’s negative job numbers. By the middle of next week, we will be able to see if these new figures are a blimp or part of a longer, and for Obama,  positive trend.

Mitt Romney’s “disastrous” foreign trip: son like father?

Mitt Romney is back from his foreign trip to London, Israel, and Poland, a trip that is generally considered to have been a “disaster.”

Romney managed the impossible, writes veteran Michael Hirsh in National Journal, who cannot think of anything like it since the father, George Romney, came home from Vietnam and said that the U.S. military there had “brainwashed” him. That spelled the end of George Romney’s presidential candidacy.

The question now is whether Mitt Romney’s candidacy is heading towards the same fate as his father’s did. His “gaffes,” described in detail by John Cassidy on his blog in The New Yorker, will likely not have the same impact. But it is clear that Romney’s foreign trip has not strengthened his presidential candidacy, and it will be interesting to see if and how this is reflected in the next polls.

Already before the trip, the latest figures today from Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News show that Obama has strengthened his position in key states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Obama’s lead in Pennsylvania is very large, 11 percent, while the lead in the other two is 6 percent.

Oh, those Danes…still the most content

Oh, those Danes…they continue to be the most satisfied with their lives in the whole world, according to the recent worldwide Gallup survey on quality of life in 146 countries. Denmark has had the top spot since 2009.

On average, Gallup asked 1,000 people in each country and divided the responses into three categories, “thriving,” “struggling,” and “suffering.”

Seventy-four percent of the Danes said they “thrived,” according to Gallup, followed by Canada and the Netherlands with 66 percent, and Sweden and Israel with 65 percent. Of the world’s largest countries, the United States landed on 12th place with 56 percent sayng that they thrived, while the numbers for Russia and China were only 22 and 18 percent, respectively.

In 87 countries, less than one quarter of the population said they were satisfied, with Cambodia in last place with 2 percent. In Europe, only 5 percent of the Bulgarians said they thrived. Numbers were also low in Italy (23 percent), Greece (16 percent), and Portugal (14 percent).

The biggest positive change since 2010 has taken place in Ghana, where those answering that they now thrived had increased by 19 percent, while the largest negative change occurred in El Salvador, minus 22 percent.

Romney can expect a big victory in Florida

The uncertainty and excitement are gone ahead of tomorrow’s Republican primary in Florida. All opinion polls have Mitt Romney in the lead, some by as much as 20 percent, and political statistician Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight writes that Romney has 97 percent chance of winning and is expected to capture nearly 45 percent of the vote.

So, a big victory for Romney, according to Silver, well ahead of Newt Gingrich’s 29 percent, Rick Santorum’s 13 percent, and Ron Paul’s 11 percent.

If Silver’s predictions come true, Gingrich will have serious difficulties to continue his campaign. He is already short of money and a big loss in Florida will make it much more difficult to raise more funds, while the situation for Romney would be the exact opposite.

Romney is also the favorite in most of the contests in February — in Nevada and Arizona because of their substantial Mormon populations, and in Michigan because Romney was born there and his father was once its governor.

The road ahead for Gingrich after the expected loss in Florida tomorrow is not easy. However, he has already said he intends to continue until the party convention in Tampa, Florida this summer. But we have heard such declarations before during this campaign, and they have often been followed by a somber press conference with the candidate giving up and going home.

The two remaining candidates, Santorum and Paul, have barely campaigned at all in Florida, and it is hard to understand why they are still in the race, other than to continue to promote their ideas and to make PR for themselves. For Santorum, there might also be with something else in mind, such as a cabinet post if Romney beats Obama, or another attempt to represent Pennsylvania again in the U.S. Senate.

Tonight’s State of the Union sets the tone for an uphill fight

The Republican presidential candidates went at each other again last night and on Thursday they will be back for another panel discussion ahead of the Florida primary next Tuesday.

Scarcely a night without Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul … so it will be nice, and very interesting, to hear President Barack Obama tonight in his third State of the Union — an important, perhaps decisive, speech that will set the tone for the November elections.

How is Obama doing so far? Not so well, according to Gallup. His job approval for his third year in office is only 44 per cent, which is lower than that of all presidents since Dwight Eisenhower, with the exception of Jimmy Carter’s 37 percent – and Carter failed to get re-elected 1980.

However, Obama’s 44 percent in 2011 equals Ronald Reagan’s in 1983, and Reagan managed to get re-elected the following year, a fact that can give Obama some encouragement.

The support for Obama has steadily declined during his three years as president, from 57 percent his first year to 47 percent his second and now 44 percent. But Gallup also notes that support for him grew during the last quarter of 2011 and that the coming quarter will be critical for Obama.

All presidents re-elected since Eisenhower had over 50 percent in job approval in their respective election year’s first quarter. The three presidents, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush, who failed to be re-elected, all had job approval rates below 50 percent.

This raises the stakes for tonight’s State of the Union.

Gallup’s numbers are fascinating, but if you want to read something beyond the numbers about Obama’s three years as president, I suggest the conservative Obama sympathizer Andrew Sullivan’s recent article in Newsweek, “Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics.” It is brilliant. Enjoy!

Who is now going to be the Republicans’ savior?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said no, so who will now be the Republican Party’s savior in the presidential election in 2012?

The attempts to persuade Christie to run point to a large degree of desperation among the Republican voters, which, in turn, springs from a deep despair that any of the current eight candidates could beat President Obama next year. This despair can be seen in the many recent polls, with large swings with each new measurement – up and down.

Right now, it’s like this:

Romney remains steadily but uninspiringly in the front group; Perry, until recently the new star, has lost a lot of support; Bachmann, who still hopes on Iowa, has lost even more of Perry; Paul has his solid support among libertarians, but little else; Gingrich, the old Fox, looks a little brighter to the future; Santorum and Huntsman are still last.

Remains: pizza magnate Herman Cain, the field’s only Black candidate, the non-politician, who has suddenly rushed to the lead. Cain – the new savior. His success stems from the growing support among the party’s right wing, the most conservative voters, according to Public Policy Polling.

“This most conservative group of Republican voters has been shopping for a candidate all year. They’ve gone from Huckabee to Trump back to Huckabee to Bachmann to Perry and now to Cain. I would expect their support for Cain to be pretty temporary. One thing that’s been very clear through all these twists and turns though — they’re not going to support Romney.”

I don’t think that the savior of the moment – Herman Cain – stands a chance in the long run. But the anti-Romney sentiments remain strong among Republican voters, and that does not bode well for Romney ahead of the primary elections, where the most conservative are also the most active and largely control the election process.

John Dickerson in Slate:

“There is an unresolved feeling about Romney. He is atop the polls again, but three-quarters of the voters say they want someone else. Even the majority of his supporters say that they could still change their mind.”

The hunt for the Republican savior continues, but there are not many names left. Only Sarah Palin, and I want to say again that I don’t think she will run. It now seems the Republican voters don’t want Palin to run, judging by the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, where 63 per cent say they do not want her to be a candidate.

So, in the end, the Republican voters will have to settle for the eight candidates they now have. It is among them that they will have to find their savior.

Growing dissatisfaction with Washington

The big losers in the current protracted battle over the U.S. debt ceiling and budget deficits are the politicians in Washington. Confidence in them drops drastically for each day that passes without the agreement and compromise that the overwhelming majority (two thirds) of the American public demands.

Congress has become a laughing stock, writes Charlie Cook, a most respected political commentator, in his latest “The Cook Report”.

“Right now, we are at a very, very low point–the worst I’ve seen since I moved to Washington in September 1972. Never in my memory have both parties and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue appeared as dysfunctional as they do today. The stakes are so high and the performance is so utterly disappointing. “

They should be afraid of their jobs, Cook writes, and predicts that many of the current members of Congress will not be re-elected in next year. The only thing that could pave the way for a solution to the current crisis is that the stock market crashes and that interest rates rise sharply.

Then, perhaps, Washington’s politicians will wake up and come to their senses. But late today there were no such signs. On the contrary. The ideological battle seems to have hardened even more.

Whatever the outcome, all politicians, including Obama, have lost support, according to recent polls. Only 41 percent of all voters now prefer Obama to be re-elected while 40 percent prefer a Republican candidate, according to Pew Research Center’s latest figures. And according to the latest Gallup surveys, Obama’s support is at a record low, only 40 percent, while only 41 percent approve of how he has handled the debt ceiling crisis. The President’s only consolation may be that the congressional leaders receive even weaker support, Speaker John Boehner (31 percent) and Majority leader Harry Reid (23 percent).

Washington gets failing grade on debt ceiling

The ongoing negotiations to increase the U.S. debt ceiling by August 2 continue to dominate Washington, but the outcome is still uncertain and criticism towards the process is growing.

The warnings of a foreboding disaster if the deb at ceiling is not raised are frequent, as the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in its recent report, which stated that federal spending would be reduced by 44 per cent after August 2.

But despite the warnings, the American public does not seem particularly worried about the future, judging by a poll from the Pew Research Center. It states that even though 40 percent anticipate major problems if the debt ceiling is not raised, nearly as many, 39 percent, predict no major problems at all. The survey also shows that Republicans are much less worried than Democrats. 53 percent of Republicans do not see any major problems if the debt ceiling is not raised, while that figure among the Democrats is 28 percent and among Independents 43 percent.

At the same time, a new CBS poll points to great dissatisfaction among the public for how both political parties, as well as President Obama, have handled the debt crisis. The Republicans in Congress are especially harshly criticized — 71 percent of all respondents disapprove of the way they have handled the matter.  58 percent say that the Democrats and 48 percent say that Obama have failed.

I think the figures in the latest polls indicate above all that people, outside of Washington, are tired of the whole issue and that the politicians cannot resolve the issue. I wonder if they even follow the negotiations in Washington longer, which EJ Dionne in the Washington Post today calls “wasted time” — Congress should instead have been discussing how to get the economy moving again, and how jobs could be created, he writes:

“This entirely artificial, politician-created crisis has kept the government from doing what taxpayers expect it to do: Solve the problems citizens care about.”

I agree.