With the left and right already onboard the campaigns of their favorites, the 2012 election is truly becoming a war over independents and if President Obama doesn’t hurry up and woo them back, he could be a goner.
That’s the message from William Galston, the Brookings Institution scholar who used to work for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
In a new review of the election, he said that “it is hard to see how Obama can win the majority of the popular vote unless he rebuilds his standing among independents.” And, he added, “it is not clear his current strategy is the one best calculated to bring about this result.”
Currently independents favor Mitt Romney by about 7 percent. Obama won the group by 8 percent in 2008. But they are less interested in gay marriage and the Buffett Rule than they are on the overall economy and unemployment, said Galston.
"Independents care more about economic growth and equal opportunity than they do about reducing gaps in wealth and income," he wrote in the election review. "While half of them believe that the U.S. economic system is unfair, 57 percent think that they themselves have been treated fairly. Perhaps that is why only 47 percent think that income and wealth gaps need to be fixed through pubilc policy."
His report, "Six Months To Go: Where the presidential contest stands as the general election begins," cited several other flashing "yellow lights" hanging up the president's reelection, notably his low job approval ratings and the public's anxiety about the economy.
Galston said the bottom line for the election will be the economic mood of the country. If it is like the late fall of 2011, when people were excited about a recovery, Obama should win. But if it is like the last two months, when economic reports have turned negative, "he will be in the danger zone and may well lose."