WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — All it takes is one issue to derail your road to the White House.
With President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney running neck-and-neck in several polls, each campaign will have to be nearly flawless heading into November as to not lose the election.
It’s a nearly impossible task to ask for a campaign to be perfect, as serious issues pop-up during one’s presidency and election run.
In 2008, President Obama began to pull away from Sen. John McCain for good when the former GOP nominee said the economy was “fundamentally strong” when Wall Street began tanking.
Once again, this election will hinge on the economy, and if it gets worse, it could end the president’s hope for re-election.
“If there’s a double-dip recession, or even a marked slowdown, President Obama will be in deep trouble, and his team knows it,” Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told CBSDC.
Under Obama, the national unemployment rate has dropped from 10 percent in October 2009 to 8.2 percent last month. But the big problem is the millions that remain unemployed and underemployed.
“Assuming there’s a recovery gaining steam, Obama has to convince people it is real and not a mirage,” Sabato said. “President [George H.W.] Bush lost even though the economy had been out of recession since 1991; Clinton did a better job of persuasion than Bush. Perceptions matter a great deal when people are insecure and worried after a tough recession.”
If Obama is able to get the economy back on track –- a recent Quinnipiac University poll says registered voters disapprove of the way the president is handling the economy, 56 to 38 percent –- then the spotlight could come down on Romney’s policies.
“It becomes easier for the president to make it a choice election rather than a referendum,” Ed Kilgore, managing editor of The Democratic Strategist, told CBSDC. “The president can make it a character election with Romney.”
If the economy starts to improve more come November, that could diminish Romney’s chances of getting elected.
“Romney has the opposite worry – that the economy will begin to improve noticeably or even roar as it did for Reagan in 1984 and Clinton in 1996,” Sabato said. “That’s unlikely, of course, but it’s possible.”
Surprisingly, the Supreme Court could help decide another election as a ruling on the president’s health care law is expected this summer. Kilgore believes that even if the court decides to rule the health care law as unconstitutional, it could benefit Obama.
“On the one hand, it will be perceived as a setback for the president and it knocks out a major accomplishment. On the other hand, it will shift attention from ‘Obamacare’ and put health care back on the table as a problem that needs to be solved.”
Jay Zeidman, national co-chairman for Maverick PAC –- a group that targets young Republicans –- told CBSDC that he believes Obama will try to paint a picture that he used Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan as a basis for his.
“I think you will really see Obama attack Romney on the health care side,” Zeidman said.
As Obama is on the campaign trail this summer, he will have to keep a watchful eye out for what develops between Israel and Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not hidden the fact that Iran is a threat and that a military option is on the table to take out Iran’s nuclear reactors. Obama and Netanyahu have butted heads over the issue with the president saying they should stick to diplomatic sanctions against the country.
“My number one issue is the security and safety of Israel,” Zeidman said. “This president has been the worst on Israel in modern history. He’s jeopardized the relationship with our oldest and closest ally.” Zeidman also added he doesn’t understand why Jewish voters would support Obama because of this.
Kilgore thinks that an international crisis might be beneficial to Obama if he can take charge of the situation, but if gas prices go up even more over a possible Israel-Iran conflict, it would be counterproductive.
“That scenario could create an oil crisis, boosting gas prices significantly,” he said.
Gas prices have been hovering around $4 a gallon across the nation.
But in the end, Romney will have to overcome one big thing, according to Sabato: beating an incumbent.
“Defeating an incumbent president is never a cinch,” he said. “And while mainly, if it happens, it’ll be a rejection of Obama, there must be a belief in the electorate generally that Romney is a decent bet to fill the Oval Office.”