Obama Pain by numbers
I do not believe in numerology. My astounding ineptness at everything from bingo to the lottery tells me that the universe had better not revolve around mystical combinations of numbers, or, frankly, I’m screwed.
That said I have no doubt that President Obama’s political future absolutely depends on three numbers.
The first number: The unemployment rate. If unemployment remains above eight percent, President Obama is going to have a hard time. Any president would. He can excuse it, explain it, blame it on others; but you can’t spend astronomical amounts of tax money to bring the economy back from recession and leave roughly 1 in 10 Americans still walking the sidewalk. Well, you can, but they won’t vote for you.
The second: Housing values. This one is squishier, because each homeowner has his own threshold for discomfort; and a home value plunge that may spark a political vendetta in one voter, might be shrugged off by another. But a third of the nation’s houses are worth less than what their owners paid for them, and if that remains true, you can see how it could haunt incumbents of all stripes, right up to the White House.
And the third number: The cost of gasoline. Maybe you’ve noticed those whacky sign-waving supporters just outside polling places, frantically waving and calling out for you to remember their candidate in the booth. That’s because they think a last minute nudge may tip you their way. But if you have to pass a gas station while going to pull the levers, and the price of a gallon is five, six or seven dollars, that will be a reminder, too — a reminder that despite a lot of promises of moving toward energy independence, it seems just as far away as ever.
So forget the polls. Ignore the pundits. Heck, you don’t even have to watch the debates. Just keep an eye on those three numbers. If they improve between now and Election Day, President Obama’s chances of a second term will improve with them. And if not, he’ll likely be counting down the days until he packs up his office.
–CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”
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