Salena Zito

The national media narrative is that things look better for Obama. Yet drive across the state and talk to Jeffersonian and Jacksonian voters who supported him in 2008, and you will find today’s environment is nothing short of toxic for Democrats, especially Obama.

And there is no reason to believe 2012 will be a “throw the bums out” vote against all incumbents; Democrats do not appear to be building a political wave that will return them to power in the U.S. House. In fact, both sides agree that Democrats probably will win only a handful of seats from Republicans.

In Pennsylvania’s House races, where five Democrat seats went Republican in 2010, none so far appear vulnerable to an upset.

Most Americans think the country is going in the wrong direction; job growth has been weak and the untold story of those who stopped looking for work remains untold.

All the national polling shows Obama up in battleground states. Yet some analysts argue that is merely a temporary effect of contentious Republican primaries.

Voter turnout in 2012 also may not favor Democrats: Recent polling by Pew Research shows young voters now self-identify as Republican +11, compared to +32 for Democrats in 2008 – so a high turnout on college campuses might not benefit the president as it did in the last election.

West Newton sits 100-plus miles southwest of Gettysburg and New Oxford. Once a manufacturing center for radiators and boilers, it now is mostly a quaint suburb of Pittsburgh. Straddling the Youghiogheny River, West Newton is enjoying its own tourism boom, thanks to trout fishing and the Great Allegheny Passage trail that attracts bicycling enthusiasts.

On a recent unseasonably warm Sunday, West Newton’s bike shop bustled with families and weekend-warriors renting bikes and eating lunch on the shop’s deck.

“Hey, it’s five bucks an hour to rent a bike,” said one of the owners. “It’s about the only vacation some locals can afford this year.”

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.