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Obama's big ask as poll day looms

America goes to the polls this year with Barack Obama facing an uphill struggle to retain the White House keys.

As the clock ticks towards election day on November 6 the incumbent must turn around his re-election hopes amid uncertain economic conditions.

Mr Obama's popularity at home has ebbed since becoming president and the country is struggling to keep its fragile economic recovery on course. But many believe that an against-the-odds victory is within his grasp, aided by a potentially weak Republican challenger.

The political environment, and Mr Obama's place in it, is far removed from that of 2008 when the then 47-year-old first-time senator was elected on a wave of enthusiasm. Much of that enthusiasm has dissipated in the intervening years.

Mr Obama's approval ratings have been low throughout 2011, dipping below the 40% mark in mid-August. They have picked up a little of late, but he still languishes in the low 40s and it has been a while since he has got the thumbs up from more than half of voters.

No post-war president seeking re-election has bounced back from figures that low this late on. Over the Christmas/New Year period before being granted a second term, George W Bush had an approval rating of 63%, while Bill Clinton was on 51% as the Times Square ball dropped to usher in his re-election year.

A further delve into statistics does little to instil Obama supporters with much hope. Unemployment has begun to fall in the US, but it is still high in the context of an election year. During Mr Obama's stint in the White House, the rate of joblessness rose to one in 10 American adults before dropping to just under 9% at present.

Many believe it will need to fall further to encourage Mr Obama's chances of re-election. No president since the Great Depression has been given an additional four years with unemployment running higher than 7.4% - a mark that Mr Obama has little chance of hitting in the 10 months before election day.

But it is not all doom and gloom for the Democratic president. Although the economy is not where he would have hoped on taking office, it could have been worse. Stimulus measures introduced by the administration have added millions of people to the workforce and averted what could have been a much slower climb out of recession.

The US is outperforming many countries in the eurozone in terms of GDP growth and many attribute this to Mr Obama's efforts to kick-start the economy. Additionally, he has had a good year overseas, winning plaudits at home for his handling of the Libyan conflict. It was also under Mr Obama's watch that Osama bin Laden was eventually caught and killed, providing the president with a short-lived bump in the polls.


From Belfast Telegraph