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Whose number's up now?

india Updated: Nov 04, 2011 22:37 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
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This Halloween, I met Catwoman, Slash of Guns 'n' Roses, even Batdog. But those costumes are so yesterday. There are several scarier creatures out there.

Depending on what your political persuasion may be, it's easy to raise the fear factor. Scare the living daylights out of a conservative by dressing up as an Occupy Wall Street type, accessorised with winterised tent. To frighten a liberal, go as a Tea Partier. Or for equal opportunity terror tactics, go as the Deficit. Or Greece. Or the ISI.

Just about three years ago, things weren't as scary. There was the Cinderella story of Barack Obama, who was elected President of the United States on November 4, 2008. Now, Americans appear to have less of Prince Charming and more of the pumpkin.

Three years ago, there wasn't much that the then first-term Senator from Illinois had to fear, other than being caught sneaking a smoke by Michelle Obama. Now, a year from the first Tuesday of November 2012 when the next American presidential elections are scheduled, 'hope' is just another four-letter word. The scariest thing for Obama right now is the numbers.

According to some estimates, including those from the Obama administration, the 2009 economic stimulus wasn't particularly stimulating. The bailout totals are likely to far exceed the entire cost of the war in Iraq. And while unemployment continues to hover dangerously close to the double-digit mark, the stimulus may have cost nearly $275,000 per job. Since that worked out so well, the Administration has a fresh proposal for another stimulus package of nearly $450 billion.

By CNNMoney's estimates, just about $3 trillion has been invested in various forms by the federal government since the bailout bash began. In other words, American tax-payers have handed out, involuntarily, so much cash that if it were to be divvied up between the seven billion inhabitants of the planet, each would get more than $425. That would have been a nice birthday present for Baby Nargis, at least.

But the numbers that'll probably make the American president shiver a bit more are his job approval ratings, when compared to his predecessor George W Bush, at the same point of his tenure, three years and counting. Obama is at 43% , according to Gallup - and that's after an uptick - while Bush was at 51% . When Obama came into office, 67% approved of the job he was doing (including offshore approval like the Nobel Prize for Peace from smitten Norwegians), before he actually started doing it. That was a full 10% higher than Bush's numbers at the outset. Of course, in politics, a honeymoon doesn't even last as long as a Kim Kardashian marriage.

Bush presided over the original bailout bonanza and by the end of his term was rewarded with an approval rating of 34%.

Gallup also projected that registered voters prefer a generic Republican candi-date to the current incumbent of 1,600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Of course, there may be major upheavals in a year and those numbers could change, or so Obama will hope. After all, his Republican opponents haven't quite wowed the electorate. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, nicknamed Myth by some conservative critics, has all the pizzazz of cold pizza. Former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, Herman Cain, emerged as a real challenger, but is now facing media reports about previous incidents of alleged sexual harassment. And the original Republican hope, Texas governor Rick Perry, seems to have debated himself into oblivion.

At this time, none of them will make Obama tremble as much as the technicolour pant-suited Hillary Clinton did during the 2008 Democratic primaries.But the real problem is generic. As in any Republican candidate could start looking better and better if the economy gets battered even more.For Obama, it'll be a year to get some mojo back unless he wants to suffer some frightening results come November 2012.

Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years. The views expressed by the author are personal.