I don't buy all the negative press about the latest polls or presidential election statistics. There are more than 40 days and 40 nights left for the race to be decided. Like ants at a picnic, the liberal media is all over Obama's gain of a few points in some of the most recent polls.
There's not much being said about it, but a Rasmussen Poll (September 17) shows Romney 47% and Obama 45%. And in my home state, Kentucky, in a Courier-Journal/Survey USA poll, Romney is at 53% and Obama is at 39%. Polls are just that. They all have a margin of error. Also, pollsters and the interests that pay for the polls have political agendas. If you pin your hopes on today's numbers, you could be swept up in a flood tomorrow.
Might the economic outlook have an influence on voting? A few things haven't changed much and certainly don't show signs of getting any better:
1) Government is doing too much. According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority in the U.S. say that government is doing too much. In 20 years of asking this question, the majority of Gallup respondees have only a few times said government should do more to solve the nation's problems than they have said it is doing too much. The first is when Bill Clinton ran for and took office (fall 1992 and early 1993). The second time occurred in October, 2011, immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Does it make sense that if the majority in the U.S. says government is doing too much that they would vote for a big-government president?
2) Unemployment is still high. We are in the longest period of sustained high unemployment since the Great Depression. The 0.1% "improvement" in the latest release, now 8.1% unemployment, is only because people gave up looking. That doesn't sound like people are doing better than they were four years ago (when unemployment was 7.8%).
3) Uncertainty adds to unemployment. According to a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco study, uncertainty since the financial crisis in 2008 has upped the unemployment rate 1-2%. "Had there been no increase in uncertainty in the past four years, the unemployment rate would have been closer to 6% or 7% than to the 8% to 9% actually registered. Why is there so much uncertainty? A few ideas: Obamacare, tax increases, burdensome legislation, government waste, and the cost of government. If "the private sector's doing fine," would there be uncertainty? Would there be so much uncertainty if we were better off?
4) National debt. $16 trillion. When President Obama took office the national debt was $10.6 trillion. Now it's $10.5 billion per day and $12,000 per second, on our national credit card. Fiscal cliff ahead? Recession? More unemployment? Who wants more of that?
So the Democrats got a little more "bounce" from their convention. That could all die down as the economic woes of the country become news again and the speeches and balloons are long forgotten.
It's the eight swing states that will ultimately determine the election. Those voters may be influenced by the debates in October. Although, they don't usually have much of an impact unless a particularly splendid remark is made or someone makes a huge flub. Furthermore, this year some early voting begins before the debates, so they may have an even lesser impact.
Presidential approval ratings by Gallup show the highest approval ratings for this president were in the days immediately following his inauguration in 2009, at 69%. The low point, reached several times, was most recently in mid-October 2011, at 38%. The average for his term, to date, is 49%. His most recently weekly average (September 10-16) is 50%.
The average approval rating for presidents is 54% and for elected presidents' 15th quarter, 50%. Since President Carter, no president as been re-elected with an approval below 50%.
The American public has had four years of lax leadership. The president highlighted his foreign policy credentials in his speech in Charlotte, yet according to research by the Government Accountability Institute, the president has missed more than half of his daily intelligence meetings. The administration's accounts of what happened last week in Libya conflict with those of Libyan officials and some U.S. lawmakers. How secure does this make you feel?
The president's relationships with congressional leaders is not strong, as referenced by Bob Woodward in his new book, The Price of Politics. He said, "no one was running Washington" last year during talks about the debt ceiling with congressional leadership. After the deal between the president and congress fell apart, congressional leaders put together the short-term "spending deal" to avoid a default that could have created a gargantuan financial crisis. "The overarching theme here is that we dodged a bullet that could have changed this country forever but we dodged it by deflecting it off to the year 2013 which by the way is only several months away," Woodward said in an interview with Diane Sawyer. 2013 will require better cooperation and determination.
The coming weeks will be filled with claims from both sides of the aisle and plenty of media hype. Many of us will want to shut down our laptops and iPads and turn off the television when the news comes on. America has a big decision to make. It's not over yet, and much could still happen before November.