After proving that he was eligible for office (hooray!) and overseeing the death of Osama bin Laden (sincere hooray!), President Obama's poll numbers have been steadily climbing out of the gutter. Last week, his approval ratings hit a sixteen-month high, according to Gallup. And yet everyone knows that, ultimately, voters won't really be thinking about bin Laden or birth certificates when they vote for president in November of 2012. Selfishly, they will be mostly concerned about whether they have a job. That would be fine for Obama if the recovery was proceeding apace ... but it's not.
Two bright spots over the past few months — manufacturing and job creation by private companies — both slowed in May, according to new reports Wednesday. The data come amid other reports of falling home prices, declining auto sales, weaker consumer spending and a rising pace of layoffs.
Those reports caused the stock market to take its biggest plunge since August yesterday. There's a growing sense of pessimism about the strength of the recovery, and if the voters don't notice by themselves, Obama's opponents will be more than willing to remind them. In fact, when Mitt Romney officially announces that he's running for president today, he'll make Obama's failed economic stewardship the centerpiece of his speech. An excerpt:
A few years ago, Americans did something that was, actually, very much the sort of thing Americans like to do: We gave someone new a chance to lead; someone we hadn't known for very long, who didn't have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place. At the time, we didn't know what sort of a President he would make. It was a moment of crisis for our economy, and when Barack Obama came to office, we wished him well and hoped for the best. Now, in the third year of his four-year term, we have more than promises and slogans to go by. Barack Obama has failed America.
Burn. There's still plenty of time for the economic recovery to right itself. Today's gloom has a way of quickly giving way to tomorrow's optimism. But for the moment, it's gloom.