Last week, a Washington Post/ABC tracking poll found the presidential race tied nationally between President Obama and Mitt Romney, but more interesting was what it said about Americans' perceptions of Obama's actual job performance. "Among voters who say they are focusing their vote on [Obama's] first-term performance, 58 percent back Romney, and 41 percent support the president," the Post reported. "By contrast, the vote is reversed among those who say they're voting more based on what he would do in a second term: among these voters, it is 58 percent for Obama and 40 percent for Romney."
It's not surprising that Americans who are basing their vote on Obama's actual results are overwhelmingly backing Romney. On Friday, the nation received another reminder of Obama's failures when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the nation's unemployment rate had crept up to 7.9 percent in October. That's a far cry from the roughly 5.5 percent unemployment rate Obama's advisers were promising by this time when the president was arguing for his $833 billion stimulus package.
But the headline number doesn't tell the full story. In addition to the 12.3 million unemployed Americans, there are 8.3 million who wanted to work full-time but had to settle for part-time employment, and 2.4 million who didn't bother to look for work in the past month and so weren't included. Taking this into account, a fuller measure of unemployment stood at 14.6 percent.
Friday's jobs news comes on the heels of another report showing that the economy continued to grow at an anemic pace in the third quarter. In the summer of 2009, the White House projected economic growth of 4.3 percent in both 2011 and 2012. In reality, it was at 1.8 percent in 2011 and is on the same pace this year.
Throughout the campaign, Obama has not articulated how his second-term agenda would be any different than his first. He'll continue to push for higher taxes and has proposed roughly $500 billion in new government stimulus. Without having to face re-election, he will have more flexibility to impose by bureaucratic manipulation the parts of his agenda that he won't be able to get through Congress. What's more, Obama's re-election would mean the implementation of the most damaging of all of his first term policies -- his $1.7 trillion health care law.
It isn't at all surprising that a majority of voters who are assessing Obama's performance in his first term would want to move in a different direction, but it is surprising that there's such a large segment of the population engaging in so much wishful thinking about his second term.