The transatlantic economic crisis has scythed through Europe’s leaders. So,as November looms,can Barack Obama avoid becoming the highest profile victim of a trend shaping world politics?
US President Obama lost a flamboyant,sometimes erratic but ultimately trusted partner in Nicolas Sarkozy after France picked Francois Hollande,its first Socialist president in a decade,to pull it out of the slump.
Sarkozy Sunday joined Britain’s Gordon Brown,Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi,Ireland’s Brian Cowen,and leaders of Denmark,Spain and Portugal sent packing since Obama took office himself in 2009.
Though each election featured unique national factors,those leaders paid for their failure to mitigate the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.
Obama now faces a battle in November’s election to ensure that the “Great Recession” does not send him back to hometown Chicago after a single White House term.
He has similar challenges as his European counterparts: high jobless rates,slow economic growth,bulging national debt and pervading middle class pessimism.
Economic woes and Europe’s capacity to further damage the fragile US recovery,represent Obama’s deepest electoral vulnerability.
“There’s one universal truth that’s told about elections,it is about the economy,and how people feel about the economy,whether it’s getting better or worse,” said Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
In a new Politico/George Washington University poll yesterday,Obama led his Republican opponent Mitt Romney on issues including foreign policy,the middle class and on values.
But the election is still a toss-up because of the economy. Obama is ahead 48 per cent to 46 per cent on who would better create jobs. Romney is up three per cent on who would be a better steward of the economy.
That said,some unique factors on the US side of the Atlantic could shield Obama.
The electoral system,of a series of state-by-state races,could deliver battlegrounds doing better than the rest of the country — like Ohio and Virginia for instance into Obama’s column in November.
Though jobs growth is slowing — 115,000 new positions created last month — unemployment is nowhere near the staggering proportions it is in Europe. Unlike European states slipping back into recession,the economy is still growing,albeit at only 2.2 per cent in the first quarter.
Dante Scala,a professor at the University of New Hampshire,said it was unclear whether Obama could get a pass from voters because the crisis pre-dated his administration.