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Web Chat: One Year Out, the Status of the Presidential Election

On November 2, Thomas Mann took your questions about the state of play in the presidential race one year out, in a live web chat moderated by Vivyan Tran of POLITICO.

The transcript of this chat follows.

12:30 Vivyan Tran: Hey everyone, let's get started!

12:30 Comment From James: Do you think the dissatisfaction with Congress is enough to cause Obama to lose the 2012 election?

12:32 Tom Mann: If Obama loses, it will be a result of his being in the White House during very bad economic times. His best chance at winning is to convince the public that their unhappiness with Congress is really a complaint about the Republicans in Congress who are responsible for obstruction and gridlock.

12:32 Comment From Jocelyn: How do you think the Republican candidates match up with Obama? Can any of them beat him?

12:33 Tom Mann: The Republican field is unusually weak. Romney may be the only one able to ride the bad economic conditions into the office.

12:33 Comment From Paul: After all the difficulties he's faced during his presidency, do you really think Obama is the best candidate for Democrats?

12:37 Tom Mann: He will be the only Democratic candidate. It is too late for a challenge to his nomination and in any case no one could deny him renomination. He is very popular among Democrats. Could another Democrat run a stronger general election campaign? Possibly but not likely, in spite of the Time poll showing Hillary Clinton running much better than him against potential Republican nominees. Obama's difficulties are his party's—being seen as the party of government during bad times.

12:37 Comment From Taylor: The debates this year have been interesting, to say the least! Do you think any of the Republican candidates have been especially hurt by their performance in the debates?

12:39 Tom Mann: Almost all of them have suffered some damage, starting with Pawlenty, then Bachmann, then Perry. No one seems up to the challenge of being the not-Romney alternative but Romney himself has not been able to improve his profile among conservatives.

12:40 Comment From Jason: Some of the Republican candidates have an interesting understanding of "the truth." Does anyone fact check or correct any of their public statements or statements they make at events?

12:41 Tom Mann: The Washington Post fact-checker has been busy as have a number of other organizations. But these stories and reports tend to get buried in the back pages and have little sway with the public.

12:41 Comment From Jakob Nielsen: What effect does it have on the decision making process in DC that the election campaign is already on - 1 year before election day!?

12:45 Tom Mann: It reenforces the fact that we live in an era of the permanent campaign, indeed, a permanent partisan war, with no clear lines between campaigning and governing. Republicans have decided that their electoral interests are best served by blocking whatever Obama strives to do with the economy. Obama has finally realized that reality and is taking aggressive steps to distinguish the approaches of the two parties and to place the responsibility for gridlock with the GOP. Not much chance for serious policymaking.

12:45 Comment From Andrew: Do you think Obama's decision to move forward with his recent executive orders, bypassing Congress, has been a good idea?

12:48 Tom Mann: Yes, since he has no alternative. In fact, aggressive use of executive authority may persuade Republicans in Congress to do something. A good example is the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. The steps he is taking can have only marginal effects on the economy but you work with the options you have (as Don Rumsfeld might put it).

12:48 Comment From RA MAddox: Given that we are in the first recession since the U.S. shift toward a more globalized economy and the emergence of former third world countries such as India, China and South Korea as major economic players, can the U.S. electorate accept the 9% unemployment threshold as the norm and thus, reelect the president?

12:50 Tom Mann: Obama may be reelected with 9 percent unemployment but it won't be because the public accepts the new global economic order. It will be because they find the alternative worse than the current incumbent in the White House.

12:50 Comment From Mark, Greenbelt: Do the allegations against Cain mean he's out? Is he, or has he ever been, a serious contender?

12:53 Tom Mann: In the short term, Cain's support may actually increase, if only out of pure stubbornness. But Cain is so patently unqualified for the presidency that his campaign is likely to collapse at some point and not as a consequence of the harassment charges.

12:53 Comment From Dan Thomas: Will Romney win the GOP nomination, and, if so, can he beat Obama?

12:56 Tom Mann: Probably and yes. Romney will probably win the nomination because he is the only GOP candidate who passes the threshold of a plausible president. The economy is likely to be in bad enough shape to give him a good shot at winning in November. Not a done deal, by any means, but a good shot.

12:56 Comment From Saori: Or does the dissatisfaction with Congress is enough to cause Obama to win the 2012 election?

12:57 Tom Mann: If the Congress comes to be seen as the Republican Congress responsible for gridlock, it could be Obama's ticket to reelection.

12:57 Comment From Jennifer s.: What do you think of the direction of Perry's campaign? The video from NH was bizarre, in my opinion. Can he get back on track and really threaten for the nomination?

12:59 Tom Mann: He has money, staff, organization and retail politicking skills but first impressions are hard to overcome. The odds are against a recovery but I see him as the only not-Romney alternative.

12:59 Comment From Saori: Why do you think that Romney is the only one who is "qualified"?

1:01 Tom Mann: Most of the others are minor players with little relevant experience or record of seriousness who have embraced charges and advanced policies that are a bit nutty.

1:01 Comment From R. Igelsias: You think Romney could win, but he's failed to catch fire in his own party. Does he have time to build enthusiasm in the base? Can he?

1:03 Tom Mann: Romney would have trouble firing up his base in a general election but I think hatred of Obama and widespread GOP rejection of the Democrats as a legitimate opposition would do the trick.

1:03 Vivyan Tran: Thanks for the great chat everyone, see you next week.