We’re just about five months from Election Day and thus far the biggest thing to happen in this campaign was Friday’s dismal jobs reports.
The economy is far and away the biggest issue and that weak report underscores how little President Obama can do to help himself in his reelection efforts.
Although the race is tied and Obama’s team feel good about their standings in battleground states, one of his top strategists confessed to me the other day “The things that worry me are the things we can’t control.”
At the top of that list is the economy because there are few levers Obama can push right now to help the economy and he has little power over the people who do have control, namely Congress. And since Congress is in a stalemate they won’t be able to push through any significant legislation before November.
So here are the potential campaign torpedoes that could both sink Obama’s reelection and are out of his control:
- Voters in Greece: The June 17th elections and whether Greece remains in the Euro Zone could have more of an impact on Obama and his campaign than anything that happens here in the United States.
- Ben Bernanke: The Chairman of the Federal Reserve testifies before Congress today, and it’s still unknown what steps, if any, he will take to help stimulate the economy. And Obama cannot influence that decision.
- Israel and Iran: Will Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launch an attack against Iran before November 6? If he does, that could actually turn around one of the few bright spots in the economy right now, oil and gas prices.
- Bill Clinton: The former president is probably Obama’s most formidable and most frustrating surrogate. And this week is a prime example of both Clinton’s strengths and his weaknesses. Take the CNBC interview on Tuesday when he spoke about extending all of the Bush era tax cuts temporarily in order to give Democrats and Republicans time to negotiate.
Although some have twisted Clinton’s words saying he called for permanent extension, that is not what the former president said. And I don’t agree with my friend Bill Kristol who wrote in the Weekly Standard that Clinton “knows what he’s doing” and is deliberately undermining Obama. Nevertheless Clinton’s remarks caused heartburn in Chicago and Clinton had to partially walk back his statement.
But here’s the dilemma for Obama: There is going to be increasing pressure to temporarily extend the tax cuts to allow more time to negotiate. And if the economy continues to weaken between now and August that pressure could start to appear unbearable.
So even though the president does not want to call for an extension, he might be forced into a corner and face the question: must he sacrifice his rhetorical and political position for the sake of stimulating the economy right now. Clinton may end up looking more like a prophet than a pariah.
And one final note on last week’s suggestions for new campaign slogans. More than 1500 of you wrote in, and I wanted to share a few of my favorites:
From “But Seriously”: “Let’s hope we have a change!”
From Rose Szymanski: “Eight years to break it, eight years to fix it.”
Continue to leave more slogan ideas below.