Republican strategist Karen Hughes and Democratic pollster Mark Penn in their bi-weekly faceoff about Election 2012
Penn: Obama is resilient. He proved in 2008 that he knows how to size up a tough spot and come out swinging. This time around he is facing another rough patch, only now he has to come out swinging for the swing voter.
Obama has to distance himself from the Republican right by occupying the center and rebuilding the coalition he had just a few years ago when he brought together those in the lowest and highest income classes — in 2008, he won the lion’s share of everyone making under $35,000 and got a remarkable half of the 26% of the voters whose households make over $100,000. Never before have so many voters fallen into that category and never before had so many of them voted Democratic. He has to keep his coalition together with a second-term agenda that unites them rather than divides them.
Obama’s ratings are hovering around 40%, a big drop from the lofty levels of two years ago, but he certainly could come back from here, as others have. He needs to get near 50% to tip the odds back in his favor. Given tough economic conditions, the best alternative is a relentless drive to show how his presidency is making a difference every day in the lives of average Americans.
While the Republicans tie themselves up in knots in their primary season and continue to be led by the Tea Party, their ratings are sinking lower and lower. National frustration is building and although the voters have real concerns about the President, few think the Republicans have a better idea. On issue after issue, the voters prefer the Democratic solution to the Republicans. And that means that there is a lot of hope for less change than the Republicans are counting on and a path to re-election.
Hughes: To quote an infamous campaign aside, President Obama is in trouble … “big-time.” As he launches his re-election campaign – far too early – he is undermining the very rationale that made him President in the first place.