President Obama’s reelection chances are looking up.
The Commerce Department announced Thursday that the gross domestic product grew at a 2.5 percent clip in the third quarter, a marked improvement over the sluggish 0.9 percent growth rate in the first half of the year. Though analysts had predicted a strong third quarter report, any good economic news is good for the president’s reelection.
Also, the agreement reached by leaders of the European Union to resolve the Greek debt crisis helps President Obama, at least indirectly. If Europe had failed to act, a default by Greece, followed by defaults by other countries, such as Italy and Spain, could have plunged the world into a new economic crisis, endangering the fragile recovery in this country.
Mr. Obama’s executive orders of recent days also shows a president ready to take resolute action. So far this week, the president has announced initiatives to help 1.6 million college students repay federal loans, to enable one million homeowners refinance their mortgages so that they can lower their payments and keep their homes, and to assist 8,000 veterans in finding jobs.
A frustrated president acted by executive order because Congress has been unable to legislate. “We can’t wait for Congress to do its job,” the president announced. “So where they won’t act. I will. We’re going to look every single day to figure out what we can do without Congress.”
Congress can’t legislate because it’s hamstrung by Republicans who vote down every initiative proposed by the president, even in instances where those initiatives are traditional GOP policy. Mr. Obama will continue to make obstructionist congressional Republicans a campaign issue.
Republicans not only say no to every presidential domestic proposal. They also refuse to give him credit for his accomplishments in foreign policy, from the killing of Osama bin Laden to the announced end of the Iraq war to the successful conclusion of the Libyan involvement. Presidential campaigns are not won, of course, on foreign policy, but the president’s forthrightness in international affairs shows him to be a decisive leader. The unwillingness of Republicans to give him his due indicates their churlishness.
Finally, the best news for the president continues to be what has always been the president’s best hope for reelection: the Republican field. Rick Perry has plummeted to single figures in recent polls; Mitt Romney continues to appeal to only a quarter of the Republican primary electorate, and the gaffe-prone Herman Cain, though he has surged into the lead, simply is not a serious candidate.
Cain’s meteoric rise in the polls is symptomatic of the GOP’s problem. The extreme right, which is disproportionately influential in the early caucuses and primaries, doesn’t like Romney and continues to latch on to the latest great conservative hope. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and now Herman Cain have all auditioned for the role, and all have come up short.
Romney’s inability to cash in on his putative frontrunner status and the failure of any conservative to challenge him successfully means a continued primary campaign in which the Republican candidates attack each other, doing Mr. Obama’s work for him. The result will likely be a weakened challenger when the general election campaign begins.