President Barack Obama should be the underdog in his campaign for re-election, but disunity among Republicans could hand him a victory in November — and a stronger hand in dealing with Congress.
That was the analysis handed down by Bloomberg News Editor Clark Hoyt at the fourth annual Central Coast Economic Symposium on April 4.
Speaking to about 300 business and community leaders in Arroyo Grande, Hoyt, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former public editor at The New York Times, said that although no president has been re-elected with an unemployment rate above 8.1 percent, “Obama has trajectory of economy on his side.” A recent Bloomberg survey found that two-thirds of the states are in recovery mode, with California’s recovery the 11th strongest among those on an upswing.
Despite the bruising GOP primary and liberal dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration, both parties will be able to count on their bases in November, he said. But he warned that the prospect of a devastating political gridlock looms for whoever wins the election.
Some 60 percent of voters say the economy is on the wrong track and 75 percent see politics as a driver of whatever the Supreme Court decides about health care reform.
Hoyt said the charged atmosphere is a prescription for “a train wreck or a grand bargain.” He said one of the biggest barriers to a deal on deficit reduction and entitlement reform remains the inability of House Speaker John
Boehner to contain the vocal Tea Party caucus in the House, which is not willing to compromise on issues such as raising taxes.
The fight over a roads bill and a looming battle over reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States are turning votes that used to be routine into major political battles.
Hoyt said a forthcoming book from two noted Washington experts — one left leaning and one conservative — describes the current Republican Party as a “conservative outlier.” But he said both parties are “unusually polarized.”
He declined to predict the outcome of the presidential election but said it was possible the GOP majority in Congress could be reduced as some Tea Party freshman appear to be having a tough time getting re-elected.