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Obama's pros, cons as summer of campaigning starts

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, July 15 2012 6:36 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama holds a campaign rally at Centreville High School in Clifton, Va., a Washington suburb, Saturday, July 14, 2012. Virginia is a crucial swing state that Obama won four years ago.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — Four months from Election Day, President Barack Obama has an edge in support among women, African-Americans, Hispanics and young people, groups that could him swing the race in November.

He retains the power of incumbency and people generally like him.

But there are indications that Obama's supporters aren't as enthusiastic about him as they once were, and the Democrat no longer is in a fundraising league of his own, with Republican Mitt Romney and GOP-leaning groups raking in the campaign cash.

Plus, the shaky economy, which crashed in fall of 2008 and helped Obama capture the presidency, is a huge vulnerability. Come November, it could trump all his other advantages.

A look at Obama's assets and liabilities:

ADVANTAGES:

Power of Incumbency: He's the president, and that means he can set the national agenda. It's a power Obama has put to good use during his re-election campaign. He used the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death to remind voters of his national security credentials. He made a direct appeal to Hispanics by announcing a more lenient immigration policy for people who came to the U.S. illegally as children. The president also already is known to the public so his campaign can focus its efforts on defining Romney instead of spending time and money introducing Obama.

Demographics: Obama leads Romney among women, African-Americans, Hispanics and young people, edges with key voting blocs that could help him capture battleground states. The Obama campaign is banking on support from Hispanics to win out west in places like Nevada and Colorado, and in Virginia, where the Hispanic population has surged. High turnout among African-Americans would help Obama in North Carolina. And if Obama wins the women vote, it would be a significant boost to his efforts to reach the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

Likability: No matter how bad the economy gets or how low Obama's job approval ratings dip, polls show many Americans still like the president. And that personal appeal could make a big difference with undecided voters who may find it hard to vote against someone they like. About 50 percent of those surveyed in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll felt positively about Obama, compared to 33 percent who felt positively about Romney.

Strong Surrogates: The Obama campaign has two popular and persuasive surrogates at its disposal: Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Both keep up a robust campaign schedule. They head to battleground states when official business keeps the president in Washington. And they're dispatched to places where they may be more popular than he is. The first lady's approval ratings — 64 percent view her favorably according to a recent Pew poll — far exceed her husband's. And Biden has an easier rapport than Obama with white, working class voters in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

LIABILITIES:

Economy: There is no greater threat to Obama's re-election prospects than the economy. Even the most loyal Obama supporters say that if the already shaky economy softens any further before Election Day, the president's chances of winning will be significantly diminished. The nation's unemployment rate is stuck above 8 percent, though it has come down from its high of 10.1 percent in 2009. No one in the White House or Obama campaign expect significant economic improvement before the election. But advisers do fear that the economy could get worse, it could cement the notion with voters that the president is the wrong economic steward.

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