Voter enthusiasm and the “right track”

ABC News took a snapshot of the presidential race on Monday, and found rising enthusiasm among Romney voters, offset by a decline in the number of voters who think America is on the “wrong track:”

Rising enthusiasm and declining anxiety mark an energy boost among Mitt Romney’s supporters since he prevailed in the first presidential debate. But a persistent sense he’d favor the wealthy, combined with easing discontent with the nation’s direction, provide a retort for President Obama, raising the stakes for their second showdown this week.

Romney now numerically leads Obama in strong enthusiasm and trails him in anxiety among potential voters, both firsts this season. At the same time, the number of registered voters in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll who say the country is headed seriously off on the wrong track has eased to its lowest in nearly three years, 56 percent — a level incumbents can survive.

Following the best jobs report in 44 months, 52 percent say Obama deserves at least some credit for lower joblessness. And gains have been felt locally: Thirty-two percent now call it “very difficult” to find jobs in their area, down from 49 percent in July 2011.

(Emphases mine.)  “A persistent sense Romney would favor the wealthy” provides a “retort” for President Obama?  Perhaps “incumbents can survive” 56 percent of Americans thinking the country is “headed seriously off on the wrong track,” if the media thinks class warfare is a valid and compelling “retort” to such appalling performance by the incumbent.

The notion that one month of marginal improvement in the unemployment picture could erase years of dismal failure is an insult to the American electorate.  Their attention span might not be as long as pundits would like, but they’re not squirrels.  ABC’s poll says the “wrong track” number has eased by 13 points since mid-August.  That’s a remarkable roller-coaster ride.  Does such a large segment of the electorate really change its mind about whether America is headed in the right direction on a month-to-month basis?  Or is such a trend likely to pay off for Obama only if swing voters retroactively change their minds and decide the country has been headed in the right direction since long before August 2012?

At any rate, no serious analyst thinks September’s jobs report was a wonderful harbinger of good times to come, a sign that Obama’s trillion-dollar spendathon is finally paying off three years later.  The number was a statistical anomaly, large enough to raise serious questions about the validity of the report.  It also had all the typical grim features of Obamanomics: more Americans leaving the workforce than jobs actually created, and a continuing surge of part-time employment at the expense of full-time jobs.  Much of the “good news” that could be found in that report came from an increase in government hiring.  And with its revisions to July and August, the report shows that job creation has been trending down over the past 3 months.

But apparently the media is confident that loudly trumpeting one piece of data from that report, the U-3 unemployment rate, will erase every other consideration from the public mind, and make them delirious with joy over that single metric finally nudging under 8 percent, as the final quarter of Obama’s term begins.

It’s clearly still a tight race – the latest ABC/Washington Post poll says it’s within the margin of error, as do most other surveys, with a bit of disagreement over which candidate is two or three points ahead.  Perhaps the focus on foreign policy after the Benghazi debacle has distracted from Obama’s disastrous domestic policy to his benefit, because no matter how bad Benghazi was, it’s still a fairly isolated overseas incident in the minds of most voters.

With so many voters focused on domestic issues, it’s not easy to present the case that Benghazi completely invalidates Obama’s foreign policy, since the media doesn’t like to discuss some of its other unhappy aspects – the rising tide of casualties in Afghanistan, the growing power of Islamist movements following the “Arab Spring” – and the only other isolated incident fixed in the public mind is the death of Osama bin Laden.  That’s a big reason the White House doesn’t mind making itself look foolish with its ever-changing, often completely absurd Libya evasions.  They believe this is something they can survive by running out the clock.

Clearly Romney needs to remind voters of his specific domestic policy agenda, and the many indicators that show we are most certainly not on the “right track.”  Highlighting the incongruity of the September jobs report against stagnant GDP growth, which is about to be rocked by immense tax increases, would be a good start.  Since the new angle of attack is to complain that Romney doesn’t offer enough “specifics,” he would also do well to remind voters that Obama hasn’t offered any specifics, beyond his steely determination to raise taxes.