The news for the nation and the president continues to get worse.
Today we learned that in the first quarter of this year total economic output for the country grew by an anemic 1.8 percent. This was a significant slowdown from the fourth quarter of 2010, when the growth was 3.1 percent, which was itself unimpressive, especially in the aftermath of a recession, when one would expect growth to be much more robust.
In addition, as Alana points out, the number of jobless claims increased by 25,000 to 429,000 last week (the third week in a row unemployment claims surpassed 400,000). Consumer prices were up 3.8 percent from last year (after increasing only 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010). The price of gas is 35 percent higher than a year ago. The dollar continues to decline, with the Dollar Index sliding to an almost three-year low. And real estate experts are predicting that home prices could decrease by between 10 to 25 percent before the market bottoms out.
Not coincidentally, a new McClatchy-Marist poll shows that 57 percent of registered voters disapprove of President Obama’s economic management while only 40 percent approve, the lowest score of his presidency. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say the worst is yet to come for the U.S economy. And 71 percent said the nation is still in a recession (the recession officially ended in June 2009).
In a Gallup poll, 29 percent said the economy is in a depression while 26 percent said it is in a recession, with another 16 percent saying it is “slowing down.” The Gallup Economic Confidence Index is as low as it’s been since the height of the Great recession. According to the New York Times/CBS News poll, 70 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the nation is in decline. As David Brooks wrote earlier this week, “The country is anxious, pessimistic, ashamed, helpless and defensive.”
And in a Quinnipiac poll that must have sent shivers up and down the spines of Obama’s political advisers, in Pennsylvania—a state Obama carried by double digits not quite two-and-a-half years ago—the president’s approval rating is down to 42 percent.
Obama will not win reelection if he loses Pennsylvania.
What is happening is a series of interrelated developments. Many of the objective economic conditions of the country are getting worse. The country’s mood is darkening. And support for the president, and especially his policies, is dropping to dangerously low levels.
The president can hold as many town halls as he wants. He can attack Republicans to his heart’s content. He may be, as his supporters insist, hyper-rational, the very model of the complex, nuanced thinker, perhaps even “the smartest guy ever to become president.” He can be charming on Oprah. He can do lots of things. But one thing he cannot do is escape the consequences of his actions. And if the economy remains flat on its back—if things don’t pick up significantly between now and the summer of 2012—then the odds are quite high that we’re looking at a one-term president.