Signs of Trouble for the Obama Campaign

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 31, 2012

I hate to repeat myself, but I guess that I’ll have to; it is worth noting anew that every time the Republicans seem willing to give the 2012 presidential election away to Barack Obama, the president seems willing to give the election right back.

Let’s start by pointing out that in stark contrast to 2008, young voters aren’t all that jazzed up by Team Obama:

On election night 2008, freshman Meagan Cassidy left Lake Forest College and hopped a train to Chicago to celebrate Barack Obama’s impending victory.

“There was probably no better place to be,” Cassidy said in a phone interview. The excitement generated that evening spurred her on to become an intern and then a field organizer in three congressional contests and two human rights campaigns.

Now a senior, Cassidy, 21, said she’s not working on a campaign this time around. She’s too busy looking for a job at a nonprofit advocacy group. She and her friends aren’t discussing the election as much as in 2008, she said.

“There is not much talk of Obama at all,” Cassidy said of the mood on campus, which extends beyond the president. “I don’t think anyone’s satisfied.”

Obama enjoyed a wave of youth support in his run to the presidency, winning 66 percent of voters aged 18-to-29 in the race against Republican Senator John McCain. Twenty-two million young voters cast ballots, making up about 18 percent of the electorate — two million more than in 2004, according to exit polls and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Today that passion has cooled amid gridlock and partisanship in Washington and a surge in unemployment that is souring young voters.

[. . .]

Obama’s approval rating among college students dropped to 46 percent last December from 58 percent in November 2009, according to a Harvard University poll. Fifty percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 said they would “definitely” be voting, an 11 percentage-point decrease from the fall of 2007. A third of respondents said they approved of Democrats in Congress, and 24 percent approved of Republicans. Just 12 percent said the nation was headed in the right direction

“The turnout will not be great,” Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington, said in a phone interview. The war in Afghanistan, a lack of progress on closing Guantanamo Bay and a dismal job picture taint Obama’s prospects, he said. The unemployment rate among 18- to 24-year-olds was 16.3 percent at the end of last year, the highest since record-keeping began in 1948, according to a February Pew Research Center report.

And then there is the fundraising:

With the president’s re-election fundraising drive thus far coming up short of his record-breaking 2008 pace, Team Obama — with the president and first lady Michelle Obama in the lead — is pushing hard to pump up the money figures ahead of Saturday’s financial-reporting deadline.

By some measures, Mr. Obama’s re-election drive, which at one point was projected as perhaps the first $1 billion campaign in U.S. history, has collected tens of millions of dollars less than President Bush’s campaign had at the same point in 2004, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) figures.

Democrats say the numbers are not exact apples-to-apples comparisons, with total numbers complicated by the rise of independent super PACs and funds raised for the party organizations.

But the less-than-imposing numbers have prompted a flurry of fundraising emails to supporters to donate ahead of the March 31 first-quarter deadline, including separate appeals from Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama just in the days since the president returned from an international summit in South Korea on Wednesday.

I am actually on Team Obama’s e-mail list (I got on back in 2008 in order to get the skinny on who the onetime senator’s vice presidential nominee would be; as it turned out, CNN told me that it would be Joe Biden faster than the Obama campaign did), and I get the fundraising e-mails all the time. The sense of desperation about those e-mails is palpable.

These days, Joe Biden appears to be torn between wanting to tax the planet and not wanting a real job. As the vice presidency is a real job, his predilection for wanting to impose a global minimum tax is a good reason to oust him from it, and to oust his boss from his. Despite having occasionally fumbled the campaign against Team Obama, it’s still possible for Mitt Romney to do just that.

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