Three Washington Post writers conclude:
One year out from the 2012 election, President Obama faces the most difficult reelection environment of any White House incumbent in two decades, with economic woes at the center of the public’s concerns, an electorate that is deeply pessimistic and sharply polarized, and growing questions about the president’s capacity to lead.
Those factors alone portend the possibility that Obama could become the first one-term president since George H.W. Bush, who was defeated by Bill Clinton in 1992 at a time of economic problems and similar anger with the political establishment in Washington. To win a second term, Obama probably will have to overcome the highest rate of unemployment in an election year of any president in the post-World War II era.
Last year’s midterm election victories have made Republicans eager for 2012. But public disaffection with the party and a muddled battle for the GOP nomination leave open the possibility that Republicans will not be able to capitalize on the conditions that have put the president on the defensive. …
What can be said at this point is that, after three years of pitched battles between Obama and congressional Republicans, the country is heading toward a high-stakes contest. Election 2012 will be a contest not just between two candidates but also between two starkly different views of the role of government that underscore the enormous differences between Republicans and Democrats.
Given the public mood and the president’s standing, the 2012 election will bring a dramatic shift from the hope-and-change enthusiasm generated by Obama’s first run for the White House. The race will be not only more competitive but also far more negative.
Geographically, the election will be won or lost in roughly a dozen states, beginning with most of those Obama took away from the Republicans in his first election but including a handful of traditional battlegrounds that may be more competitive than they were in 2008.
We know one of those states.
Rich Galen adds in bullet points:
- The problem for the President … is there are a lot of people saying a lot of things on the GOP side of the equation: The Presidential candidates, Republicans in the House and Senate, and Governors like Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels, who may not agree on every point, but have the standing to make news whenever they want.
- For that vast number of Americans who see the nation as “off-track” and the economy in “bad shape” the single point of reference is the President. In this case it happens to be Barack Obama, but if it were John McCain or Hillary Clinton the focus would be the same.
- The Administration speaks with one voice — or at least it sings one tune. It is the tune called by the President of the United States and this one can blame his predecessor, the European Union, the Republicans on The Hill, or a rogue asteroid.
- He’s the president and the blame for lack of bucks in people’s pockets stops with him.
- The most damning line in the Washington Post analysis might well be “growing questions about the president’s capacity to lead.”