Consider that while Obama has suffered politically due to the poor economy, Republicans are even less trusted. Only 9 percent of voters approve of the job Congress (partly controlled by Republicans) is doing. Further, a whopping 69 percent say that the policies favored by Congressional Republicans benefit the rich. Only 15 percent say that Republican policies are aimed at benefiting all groups equally.
The electorate at large, in contrast to Republican primary voters, has not concluded that a free market, limited government approach to the nation's problems is the solution. And the president will do everything possible to obscure the arguments about why the economy in limping under his leadership. He won't want anyone to hear, for example, about the recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which concludes that "policy uncertainty" coming out of Washington has had a depressing effect on small business expansion and capital investment. He will encourage voters to continue to blame George W. Bush for the nation's economic doldrums, which a sobering 51 percent continue to do.
The economy is the chief problem on voters' minds. But a year is a long time. President Obama is amassing a huge war chest for the 2012 race -- thanks to those graduate degree holders. He may not be able to govern successfully, but he can campaign well. If only for himself -- his efforts on behalf of Jon Corzine, Martha Coakley, Creigh Deeds and Congressional Democrats in 2010 having failed spectacularly.
And while Obama cannot sell hope and change this time, he can sell fear and loathing. The data Galston assembled reminds us that there are pre-existing Republican stereotypes in voters' minds that Obama can play. To escape the noose the president is preparing, the Republican nominee must, above all, be able to make the case for growth -- and to convince independents and moderates that Republican reforms would benefit everyone, not just those at the top.