Barack Obama is facing calls from Democratic allies to urgently change course in his re-election campaign, following a new low in poll ratings, worsening economic conditions and a daunting haul of donations by his opponents.
The President’s approval rating has slipped to 47 per cent, its lowest level since January, an Ipsos poll found. The proportion of voters saying that the US was on the wrong track rose six points to 63 per cent.Discontent with Mr Obama’s leadership has seen his national lead over Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, fall from seven percentage points to one – virtually a tie – in the past month. Meanwhile Mr Romney has overtaken him in the money race.
Amid indications that he may seek to strike a humbler tone beginning with a major economic speech Thursday, Mr Obama told donors at a fund-raiser in Pennsylvania late on Tuesday: “I hope you still believe in me”.His comments came as he was overtaken by Mr Romney in polls in North Carolina, a battleground state that he won in 2008 and which his campaign chiefs still claim he can hold again.
Support there for Mr Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was put at 48 per cent by a PPP survey, compared to 46 for Mr Obama. Two months ago, the President led in the state by five points. In a highly encouraging development for the Republicans, Mr Romney has turned a 13-point deficit among independent voters, whose ballots are likely to decide the election’s outcome, into a slim lead.
And to much concern from Democrats, Mr Obama’s support among North Carolinian black voters – 95 per cent of whom supported him in 2008 – has fallen to 77 per cent, according to PPP.Mr Obama has also fallen behind his opponent in the money race. Last month Mr Romney and the Republicans raised $76.8 million (£49.4 million), compared to £60 million (£38.6 million) by Mr Obama and the Democrats – the first time Mr Obama had been outstripped by an opponent in fund-raising for five years.
Mr Romney’s campaign and Restore Our Future, the so-called Super PAC supporting it, have out-raised Mr Obama among Wall Street donors by $37.1 million (£23.9 million) to $4.8 million (£3.1 million), according to an analysis by Politico. The casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson yesterday gave $10 million (£6.4 million) to Restore Our Future – the largest single gift to the Romney effort so far.The developments came amid intense concern about the state of the US economy, which had been slowly improving before a raft of weak indicators earlier this month prompted renewed panic.
Just 69,000 new jobs were created across the country last month – not enough to keep up with the growth in population – and forecasts for annual economic growth were revised down.“The economy is going through a rough patch, and that more than anything is going to determine President Obama’s future,” said Chris Jackson, an Ipsos pollster. “Independents are especially susceptible to economic pressures”.Some Democratic strategists believe Mr Obama’s bid to campaign on the basis that conditions are improving, and would be wrecked by Mr Romney and the Republicans, may now have been torpedoed.
William Galston, a former aide to Bill Clinton, told The Daily Telegraph: “The past two weeks have not been his finest hour”. Mr Obama has come under fire for saying last week that the US private sector was “doing fine”.“If he thinks he can evade the severity of the economic problem then he’s fooling himself, and I think he’s more intelligent than that,” said Mr Galston. “He must say why this downturn is different and why it is taking us longer to recover. Then, I think, he has a fighting chance”.In a speech on Thursday in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr Obama is expected to make the case that he requires four more years to repair the damage caused by George W. Bush, rather than emphasise why plans he has implemented are working.
James Carville, Mr Clinton’s top campaign adviser in 1992, said the President risked appearing complacent and must instead show that he “understands the depth of the problem”.“I’m worried that when the White House or the campaign talks about the progress that’s being made, people take that as a signal that they think that things are fine and people don’t feel they ought to believe that,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.
Mr Carville and Stan Greenberg, the veteran pollster for Mr Clinton and Tony Blair, this week released findings of focus groups from the battlegrounds of Pennsylvania that troubled Mr Obama’s supporters.They found voters unconvinced that the country was heading in the right direction, and urged Mr Obama to proceed with “minimal discussion of the recovery and jobs created and maximal empathy for the challenges people face.” – Telegraph