In my usual timely fashion, I am here to present yesterday's news. It has been clear to me for some time that Obama's defeat in the next election is not the foregone conclusion that some people think it is, and not because Republicans don't have worthy challengers. Obviously, some of the Republican candidates would stand a better chance against Obama than others, but I don't think this is a case of a large number of mediocre candidates. It is, rather, the usual short-sightedness of analysts.
When the Republicans won big in the mid-term elections, many were justifiably concerned that they not repeat their mistakes in 1995 and 1996, which allowed Clinton to win a second term even though it seemed hopeless in 1994. Even though a similar scenario played out with regard to budget issues this year, Republicans have not taken a big hit. Their position is not much weaker than it was last year, when they won big in the election. Why do I think they might not win next year, then?
It's the economy, stupid. Admittedly, the economy still isn't great, and I doubt if Obama would win if the election happened now. However, it may be turning around. The recent drops in the unemployment rate suggest that things are getting better -- only marginally at the moment, but project that out over the next 10 months. Could unemployment be below 8% next November, as Obama has suggested? That would be a drop of less than 0.1% per month. If the recovery accelerates, unemployment could conceivably fall close to 7%. At that rate, people might start to think that Obama's economic program wasn't so bad after all.
To be clear, I'm not saying the economy will improve that much by the next election. We might be dawdling around 8.5-9.0% unemployment still. I'm also not saying that Obama necessarily will win re-election even if unemployment does improve significantly. We still have large numbers of discouraged workers, an unprecedented national debt, illegal immigration, and a war in Afghanistan, among other issues. But we're out of Iraq, which has been a sore point for liberals since Obama was elected, and we are scheduled to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan next year. People could easily look at that and conclude that Obama has well begun the process of pulling America's forces back, even if he wasn't as fast as he promised. If the economy is also starting to recover, and more people are finding jobs, there could be enough optimism for the future to carry him into office. It would certainly make for a very tough campaign for his challenger.