If the election were held right now, President Obama would likely win by about the same margin that propelled him into office in 2008. But how fragile are his current advantages?
The biggest concern for the Democrats (and the best hope for the GOP) is that the president’s lead is far from overwhelming, even though Republicans — and particularly Mitt Romney — have been badly weakened by their nomination battle and Obama has been left largely unmolested by the conservative super PACs.
Obama is far better off than he was six months ago. But he cannot afford to go wobbly or to let the good news go to his head.
Democrats are certainly disappointed by the apparent fading of Rick Santorum in the final week before the Michigan primary and his surprisingly disjointed performance in last week’s debate. It’s not as clear to me as it is to others that Santorum would be less competitive than Romney as Obama’s opponent. What’s plain is that Democrats have an interest in the Republican contest going on indefinitely. Romney victories in Tuesday’s Michigan and Arizona primaries would likely shorten the process, and ending the nomination battle quickly is the precondition for a Republican counteroffensive.
They need one. Up to now, the Republican battle has played entirely into Democratic hands. The Democrats need upscale voters to cast ballots on the basis of social issues and a general revulsion over the Republicans’ lurch rightward. They need working-class whites to look past social issues and focus on economic inequality and the GOP’s continued insistence on cutting the taxes of rich people.
That’s exactly what’s happening. Obama won in 2008 even though he ran 18 points behind in the white working class. Until recently, he was drifting far lower than that, and Democrats were shellacked in House races in 2010 because they lost these voters by 30 points. Obama has now recouped the share he will need among blue collars — and in the process strengthened himself substantially in the Midwest — by making economic fairness a central theme of his reelection campaign. He’s been helped by a rise in public confidence that the economy is finally recovering …
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