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Morning Jay: Why Obama Is in Trouble

6:00 AM, Jul 11, 2012 • By JAY COST
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The last Democrat to win a majority of the white vote was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Obviously, Democrats do not need to win a majority of whites to win the White House, but they need more than 37 percent.

Note as well that Obama's numbers with African Americans and Hispanics are off their highs, at least at the moment. Contrary to what one hears from promulgators of the “Emerging Democratic Majority” thesis, there are swing voters in both groups – and it looks as though Obama is not holding them at the moment, either.

What about partisan identification?

On this front, Obama is really not doing well at all. He has the partisan Democrats mostly locked down, while partisan Republicans are mostly gone. But check out the independent vote. Most independents actually are partisans, insofar as they usually lean toward one group or another. Historically, Democrats have been able to count on at least 40 percent or so of the independent vote to behave like partisan Democrats. And that is about all Obama has right now.

Finally, what about geographical regions?

This is very bad news for President Obama. Most of the swing states are in the Midwest, and he is doing quite badly there at the moment, with approval numbers that correspond roughly to what Dukakis pulled in 1988.

His numbers in the South are equally bad, and remember that he won 68 of the South’s 186 electoral votes. He will not do that this time around if he only wins 42 percent of the vote in the region.

Obviously, things could pan out differently. The president’s job approval rating could improve, moving him above that magic line of 50 percent. Alternatively, the campaign this season could go so well for Obama that he does what few incumbents before him have managed, and win a substantial share of those who disapprove of his job performance.

But with the economic outlook looking increasingly glum, and with Mitt Romney being well financed and reasonably acceptable, this president is probably going to struggle to get above 50 percent.

Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.

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