With the American economy showing definite signs of recovery despite slow job growth—unemployment remains at 9.5 per cent—the Obama Administration and the Democrats will clearly be on the defensive come the fall campaign. While Democrats can justifiably argue in favour of an achievement-oriented Congress, the jobs picture is what really hits home. Neither the rebound on Wall Street, the success of the bailouts, nor the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry is enough to counter a sense of pessimism among voters in the short term.
The rise in the deficit and the impact on the debt also adds to the Republican narrative that the Obama Administration has mortgaged future generations for ideologically driven projects like healthcare reform. The public’s growing discontent with the war in Afghanistan only adds to the gloom and doom picture drawn by the GOP leadership and Tea Party advocates. Never mind that the Republicans wish to continue the involvement in Afghanistan, it is now Obama’s war.
The Democrats can counter that over 500,000 jobs have been created since the end of the Great Recession, the best post-recession performance in 25 years. Economists of all parties generally concede that the stimulus package did save million of jobs. This argument, while very theoretical, will be part of the Democratic narrative. Add to that the real achievements such as healthcare reform, financial regulation reform, ending pay discrimination for women, some foreign policy successes (sanctions against Iran, START treaty with Russia), and the Democrats will not be without arguments. Drawing a clear distinction between current policy overtures with the Republicans will also be a necessary part of the Democratic strategy.
But mid terms are a lot about local concerns such as jobs, mortgage foreclosures, and the enthusiasm factor appears at this juncture to favour the GOP campaign and gives it the edge come November.