Sheila Bird (right) waits in line for a job fair at City Target on Friday in Los Angeles. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Los Angeles County was unchanged at 11.2 percent in July compared with June, the state said Friday. | Nick Ut~AP
Updated: September 22, 2012 6:17AM
After a summer with the wind at his back, President Barack Obama is seeing dark clouds forming over his re-election fortunes as bad economic news and political developments cast renewed doubt over his stewardship of the economy. It’s a long way to the November election and the prospects of the contenders will ebb and flow, but, for the moment at least, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears to have turned away a barrage of Democratic smear tactics and shifted the campaign focus to the big-picture economic issues that favor him.
New unemployment numbers underscore the failure of Obama to invigorate the tepid economic recovery. In July, jobless rates increased in 44 of the 50 states. The picture was especially bad in key electoral states such as Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin. With the national jobless rate above 8 percent for 42 months, independent voters who may like Obama personally can’t help but question his fiscal competence.
Gas prices are spiking again, reawakening complaints about Obama’s hostility to fossil fuels and his refusal to approve the Keystone pipeline to import oil from Canada. The White House is said to be considering tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But foolhardy would be the only word to describe a decision to release oil for political reasons at a time of growing instability in the Middle East, notably with the civil war in Syria and the chance of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear-arms program.
On the heels of the bad economic news comes unfavorable political news in the form of an e-book from the staff of the Politico news organization. Obama’s Last Stand says the Obama campaign team, “celebrated four years ago for its exceptional cohesion and eyes-on-the-prize strategic focus, has been shadowed this time by a succession of political disagreements and personal rivalries that haunted the effort at the outset,” according to the Politico summary of the e-book. “Second-guessing about personnel, strategy and tactics has been a dominant theme of the re-election effort.”
The e-book’s account of Obama’s intense personal dislike of Romney is revealing in light of the ugly, dishonest allegations lodged against the Republican by Obama allies, namely a SuperPAC ad insinuating Romney was responsible for the death of the wife of a worker laid off at a plant which his former company, Bain Capital, tried to save.
In contrast, Romney’s campaign has hit its stride with the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. Romney appears energized and focused on a message of economic optimism if the country chooses his path of tax and regulatory reform. The crowds at Romney-Ryan events are large and enthusiastic, recalling the turnouts for Obama four years ago. Although Obama was flush with cash in 2008 and outspent GOP nominee John McCain, Romney is the one with the big bucks this time. He and the Republican National Committee outraised Obama and the Democrats the last three months.
Romney even found a way to inject Obamacare into the campaign by noting it is financed in part by $716 billion taken from Medicare. He also has reframed the Medicare debate by insisting he’s committed to saving a program on the road to insolvency.
On the eve of the national party conventions, Obama has hit a rough patch while Romney has found some momentum.