Obama Bolstered By Republican Fight, Economic Gains

President Barack Obama's re-election hopes in 2012 could be getting brighter as the bruising Republican nomination fight intensifies and the struggling U.S. economy shows signs of hope.

Obama's approval rating of 47 percent is little changed since the beginning of the year as the Republicans stumble, suggesting that the increasingly bitter fight for the right to challenge him in November could be taking its toll on his potential rivals.

A series of high-profile debates have given broad exposure to a Republican race marked by wild mood swings all year. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Gingrich all have taken turns near the top of the Republican pack along with the steady Romney.

But each of those contenders has fallen back through missteps or, in Cain's case, allegations of an extramarital affair, dimming their chances and perhaps influencing the public's view of all the Republican contenders.

"As the voters get a better sense of their choices, Obama is starting to come out better," said Republican Dan Schnur, an aide on John McCain's 2000 presidential bid. "The general impression of Republicans is being colored by the whole field."

A slowly improving economy also could bolster Obama's chances heading into next November's election. A Reuters poll of economists showed on Wednesday they expect the economy will grow moderately in 2012, at 2.1 percent.

A drop in the unemployment rate last month to 8.6 percent, as well as relatively strong consumer spending, also has buoyed hopes for the economy.

"Any uptick in the economy between now and Election Day is going to benefit the president," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "He's still better than a coin flip to win this."

Obama predicted earlier this week the unemployment rate could be down to around 8 percent by November, a figure that would be critical to his re-election bid.

Read more from John Whitesides and Jeff Mason at Reuters

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published this page in In The News 2011-12-14 23:44:00 -0500
Analysis & Political Strategy