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The economy and Obama's 'grumpy voter' problem

As the US economy recovers at a snail's pace, President Obama is urging Congress to act on his 'to-do' list for creating more jobs. Republicans focus on the dangers of tax increases when tax cuts expire in January. Come November, who will voters believe?

By Staff writer / June 2, 2012

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at Honeywell, Friday, June 1, 2012, in Golden Valley , Minn.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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As the presidential campaign calendar moves inexorably toward the November election, the economy increasingly becomes a political problem for President Obama.

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The recovery creeps along and may be stalled. And the further into Obama’s first term the nation gets, the more Americans are likely to fault him rather than the Republican – George W. Bush – under whom current economic difficulties began.

The strategies for Obama and Republicans couldn’t be more different.

Obama: Yes, things are tough and the recovery is too slow. Plus, there are factors beyond any president’s control, namely economic turmoil in Europe and international oil prices. And besides, you guys are dragging your heels on my ideas to boost employment, like infrastructure repair.

Republicans: “Obama’s failed policies have made high unemployment and a weak economy the sad new normal for families and small businesses,” as House Speaker John Boehner put it Friday when May’s dismal employment figures came out.

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As grim as those jobs figures were – just 69,000 jobs created and an unemployment rate that ticked up to 8.2 percent – that may not have been the worse news for Obama.

“Even more troubling than the unemployment rate for Obama could be this week’s revision in the growth rate of the gross domestic product for the first quarter from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent,” the Boston Globe reported. “A president seeking reelection has historically needed to head into the fall with a GDP growth rate over 3 percent to have a good chance at victory, according to Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.”

“This is Obama’s worst day yet in the 2012 campaign,’’ Sabato told the Globe.

Obama has a to-do list for Congress, especially the Republic-led House: “Reward American jobs, not outsourcing … Expand refinancing for responsible homeowners … Invest in tax credits for small-business jobs … Invest in clean-energy manufacturing … Create a veterans jobs corps.”

"My message to Congress is get to work," Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday.

“I sent Congress a jobs bill last September full of the kinds of bipartisan ideas that would have put our fellow Americans back to work and helped reinforce our economy against those outside shocks,” Obama said. “Since then, Congress has only passed a few parts of that jobs bill, like a tax cut that’s allowing working Americans to keep more of your paycheck every week.” 

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