By any measure, this has been a very rough week for the Obama re-election campaign.
It began with the decisive decision of the voters in Wisconsin to allow Republican Scott Walker to remain governor. Then on Friday, the President held a brief news conference during which he was not at his best. He fed his detractors a line--"I believe the private sector is doing just fine"--which is already coming back to haunt him.
Actually, I agree with Obama that by any reasonable relative measure the economy, the stock market, corporate profits, consumer confidence, the housing markets, and job creation are doing so much better than they were three years ago. But during this politically supercharged election year, it was not a smart thing for Obama to say.
Many of my Republican friends have sent me emails dripping with confidence and glee telling me that the events of the last week have pushed Mitt Romney far into the lead and, as my friend Jeremy exulted, "your boy Obama is toast."
But, as is so often the case with pronouncements from the Right wing echo chamber, that is simply not the case. Like a fifth marriage, it is yet another triumph of hope over experience
The only polls that are always correct and that really matter--the online and Casino based betting sites--show that Obama is still a more than 10 point favorite. A recent check of Intrade shows that one would has to bet 54 cents on Obama today to win back a dollar while a mere 43 cent bet on Romney is required to win back the same dollar. Romney remains a big underdog in the only poll that matters--the one which measures how real people are betting real money. The betting odds at the casino-based sites are pretty much the same. In fact, Obama is a slightly bigger favorite there.
Of course the odds are dynamic and if bettors change their behavior, the odds will reflect that in the future. But Intrade has never been wrong by the time elections roll around. Last week, as the news media tried to convince us that the Wisconsin election was going to be close, Intrade was showing that Scott Walker was a 20-1 favorite to defeat Tom Barrett. If you want to know how things are really going, follow the money--not the pundits.
So why is Obama still favored by so much, even as the point men on the Right flood the talk shows with examples of his supposed incompetence and describe an administration that is out of control and out of touch with what is really going on in America?
My answer is what it has always been. There simply aren't enough Obama detractors out there to get Romney elected. If a voter dislikes Obama and his performance and, over the course of time, comes to dislike him even more, that voter can still only cast one ballot. For Romney to win, he will have to display a vision and a program for the future that inspires millions of American independent voters and get them to vote for him. Thus far, Romney hasn't even been able to inspire most Republicans.
In fact, his performance on the campaign trail has been almost Palinesque. Throughout the Republican primaries, he seemed to be his own worst enemy as he made comment after comment that revealed his seemingly hard-wired affliction with either stage fright or stupidity.
He talked about how much he enjoyed firing workers at the companies that Bain Capital took over. In an effort to show a patriotic commitment to America and what an "ordinary" guy he is, he mentioned that his wife buys American and owns a couple of Cadillacs. He went on to take credit for the new found success of the American auto industry--companies from his home in Michigan which he famously wrote should be allowed to go broke just a couple years ago.
During just the last few weeks, the presumptive GOP nominee has stated that it is Russia--not Iran or North Korea or Muslim terrorists--that poses the greatest geopolitical threat to the U.S. Why does he feel that way? He didn't say.
And he recently praised the massive layoffs of public employees--including thousands of teachers, police, and firefighters on the state and local levels in dozens of states led by Republican governors around the country.
There are still almost five months remaining before Election Day in November. A lot can change.
But I still receive several emails and read articles and hear Right wing news and media reports every day reminding of what a horrible president Barack Obama has been. There are tens of millions of Americans who feel that way and since they get most of their "information" from inside the echo chamber where only voices confirming the previously held beliefs are allowed, the the outrage, fear, and anger expressed inside that closed environment will only grow.
Meanwhile, I have yet to receive a single missive extolling the leadership qualities and vision of the man who they plan to vote for in November. Not one.
Unless and until that message starts getting framed and expressed in a convincing manner, there is no reason to believe that Barack Obama will not be our president for four more years.
The best way to keep track of what is really happening is not to stay tuned to Fox or MSNBC or any of the mass media outlets that thrive on dissension and close races. Just make Intrade your home page and check it on a regular basis. If and when Romney pulls ahead in a meaningful way, you'll be the first to know.
But for now, like it or now, Obama is still a heavy favorite.