The continuing high unemployment rate poses a significant threat to President Obama’s campaign to be reelected to a second term.
So said Howard Fineman during the opening general session of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, being held in Las Vegas September 8-11. Fineman, an editorial director of The Huffington Post Media Group who comments on politics for Newsweek magazine, NBC News and Hardball with Chris Matthews, devoted his half-hour talk to the election prospects for the President and GOP contender Mitt Romney.
“No president since Franklin Roosevelt has been reelected with an unemployment above 7%,” said Fineman. “Unemployment is now higher than the official rate of 8.1%. So many people have dropped out of the labor market because they can’t find work.”
The president, he added, has pursued failed policies to help homeowners, many of whom remain in danger of default.
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“The president’s efforts to aid home owners have been judged a failure, even by liberal commentators who support his reelection,” said Fineman. “The president didn’t understand the extent to which the depressed housing market affected consumer psychology.”
Obama’s decision to offer abortion services to employees of Catholic hospitals and educational institutions has also alienated many Catholic voters. Fineman said this constituency, as a bloc, has supported the winning candidate in 9 of the 10 presidential elections.
Fineman noted also that, by a two-to-one ratio, most Americans believe the economy is now on the “wrong track.” Not least, Fineman observed, Obama has failed to live up to the high expectations that voters had for his presidency in 2008.
“The president four years ago represented hope and change for a majority of the electorate, he said. “But now there is less hope than there was four years ago. Given the political baggage that each of the presidential contenders carries, Fineman declared himself “amazed” that either candidate has a chance at victory.
Fineman noted that Obama enjoyed a “bump up” in the polls after the Democratic National Conventional concluded in Charlotte, S.C. this month. As as a result, he has a slight edge edge in the latest Gallop poll, but the lead is so small as to be within Gallop’s margin of sampling error.
The narrow lead should be especially troubling for Obama, Fineman added, because incumbent presidents with an approval rating below 50% have never won reelection.