President Obama's reelection effort hasn't officially launched yet, but two reports out today are already giving us a sense of the issues that have the fledgling campaign team most concerned. According to The Wall Street Journal, campaign manager Jim Messina is informing elite donors across the country that Obama will be in a weaker position in 2012 than he was in 2008, while economists predict that the unemployment rate will be just under eight percent when Americans head to the voting booth in 2012.
Here are the primary roadblocks to Obama retaking the White House that have surfaced in recent days:
Unemployment Rate: The U.S. jobless rate is forecasted to be 7.7 percent in November 2012, according to a Journal survey of economists. The Journal's Phil Izzo points out that this would be the highest rate in a presidential election month since Jimmy Carter bested Gerald Ford in 1976, but adds that how unemployment is trending--rather than the rate itself--often proves more decisive in an election. For example, Ronald Reagan beat President Carter in 1980 when the unemployment rate was 7.5 percent and rising, and won re-election by a huge margin in 1984 when the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent but falling.
Fundraising: Andy Kroll at Mother Jones says the Obama campaign's biggest challenge will be to raise enough money to counter "conservative heavyweights" like the Koch brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, and Karl Rove's Crossroads groups--all newly empowered by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. Obama, NBC's Michael Isikoff reports, will need to lean more heavily on deep-pocketed fundraisers and Democratic groups in 2012 than he did in 2008 because his ability to raise money from small donors online will be hampered by the bad economy and, perhaps, by diminished "grassroots enthusiasm."
Lower Support Among Youth: The Washington Post's Peter Wallsten explains that the White House is stepping up efforts "to reconnect with the young voters who were among his most fervent supporters in 2008--but who have soured somewhat on the president since" as they struggle with a dismal job market, rising college tuition costs, and state cuts to education programs.
Lower Support in Key States: Messina's briefing cites Michigan and Pennsylvania as states where Obama has lost support since 2008 and Republicans have become more popular, the Journal notes.
High Gas Prices: As the Libyan uprising pushes oil above $100 a barrel and threatens economic recovery, Christopher Hayes argues that gas prices could prove politically explosive in 2012, just as they did in the 2008 election when oil hit $147 a barrel. But after analyzing the relationship between GDP growth, gas prices, and incumbent party performance during presidential elections, The New York Times' Nate Silver concludes that gas prices only sway presidential elections if they affect economic growth, inflation, and unemployment.
GOP Opponents: Who is the Obama campaign most worried about among the likely GOP contenders? Messina's comments during a presentation in Miami, The Wall Street Journal reports, suggest that the reelection team views moderate Republican and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman--who recently stepped down as Obama's ambassador to China and is rumored to be weighing a presidential run--as a threat. Messina claimed Huntsman's ties to the Obama administration and support for a health insurance exchange in Utah would make him vulnerable in the GOP primary. Messina's presentation also indicated that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee are running five percentage points behind Obama, with Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann behind by double digits.