Michael Tomasky agrees:
So here we sit, with the election exactly a year away, and the conventional wisdom in the political press is largely driven by the political-science theory of presidential elections and economic determinism: that is, that the results of presidential elections are pretty much strictly a function of economic conditions, and if those are bad (defined by various measures, chiefly the jobless and growth rates), the incumbent will lose.While Tomasky could be right, I think it's something else.
By that theory, Barack Obama is pretty well doomed. And yet I don’t know a soul who thinks he doesn’t stand a decent chance of winning next year. As a matter of fact, it’s quite clear that his stock has risen a bit over the past couple of weeks. Why? It’s not the Republican candidates. They haven’t instantly grown appreciably sillier than they were before the last couple of weeks. Herman Cain’s had a rocky time of it, but nothing more than rocky so far. So it’s not that. I say it’s Congress. The Republicans in Congress, specifically. Obama’s secret weapons in this election are Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor....
My guess is that, while people are gloomy about the economy, and doomy (is that a word?) about our country's future, they aren't pinning most of the blame on Barack Obama.
The first evidence for this comes from the latest NBC/WSJ poll. Not only are Obama's numbers up a little (especially compared with everyone else), and not only does he beat all other Republican candidates in head-to-matchups, but the key numbers to look at are: who does the public blame for the bad economy?
And when they asked that question--"Who is most to blame for current economic problems (RANDOMIZE) Wall Street bankers, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama?"--the answers they gave reveal a lot about the American people. 36% blamed the Wall Street Bankers, 34% blamed George W. Bush, and only 21% blamed Barack Obama. In other words, 70% of the American people blame either the rich Wall Street CEOs or the last Republican president, while only 21% blame the current Democratic President.
Ah, the good old sensible American people. They know that Obama came into office after the 'great recession' had already hit. So while he's not been able to do a whole lot about fixing the economy, he shouldn't be blamed for the mess either. The Republicans and the bankers were in charge of things for the 8 years prior to the bust...and that's a fact that people apparently haven't forgotten.
Add to that the clear successes by the Obama administration in foreign policy (who was the most admired person listed in the poll?--Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a wide margin), the 71% of the American people who agree with the end of the Iraq occupation, the pathetic field of Republican candidates, the low marks for Congress...and what do you have?
You have a situation that favors Barack Obama for reelection in 2012. His obvious problems will be voter turnout and other election day peculiarities. But if he loses it won't be by much, and if the Republican wins, it won't be by much.
Now I write all of us with little enthusiasm, because I don't see Obama as having been a very effective leader in many way. Nor do I think that he put the right people in place to formulate and carry out economic policy. And I agree with the American people in being quite gloomy and doomy when it comes to the economy and the difficulties facing the average American.
Yet things could be worse, and maybe Obama's getting the hang of it (and maybe the Occupy movement will help him see the light on some things). But putting the currently quite fanatical Republicans in charge would almost surely be one of those things.