President Barack Obama “absolutely” considers himself to be the underdog in the 2012 presidential campaign “given the economy” and said voters aren’t doing better economically than they were four years ago.
“They’re not better off” than “before the financial crisis, before this extraordinary recession that we’re going through,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News and Yahoo.
“We’ve been able to make steady progress to stabilize the economy, but the unemployment rate is still way too high,” Obama said, pushing the jobs plan he sent to Congress last month as a way “to put people back to work.”
Asked whether he is an underdog for re-election, Obama said “absolutely.”
“I don’t mind -- I’m used to being an underdog,” he said. “At the end of the day, though, what people are going to say is, ‘who’s got a vision for the future?’”
A 55 percent majority expects Obama to be a one-term president, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, the television network said today. Just 37 percent said they expect Obama to win re-election next year, according to the survey.
In the interview, Obama said “it isn’t for a lack of effort” that some of his proposals have failed to win approval in Congress. “I don’t think that the American people would dispute that at every step of the way I’ve done everything I can to get the Republican Party to work with me.”
In the interview, which took place before he sent the South Korea, Colombia and Panama free-trade agreements to Congress, Obama predicted the legislation would pass. He said that while the legislation will “add jobs” it is only one of the measures that must be implemented to spur job growth.
“I don’t mind Kias and Hyundais sold here as long as Chryslers and Fords are being sold in Korea as well,” he said. “I’m glad that’s an area of bipartisan agreement, but it’s not enough by itself.”
The trade accords reached under President George W. Bush and revised by Obama had been stalled in a stalemate with House Republicans over renewing benefits for workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition, called Trade Adjustment Assistance.
The South Korea deal, the biggest since the North American Free Trade Agreement, would boost U.S. exports by as much as $10.9 billion in the first year in which it’s in full effect, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The accord with Colombia would increase exports by as much as $1.1 billion a year.
Asked about Bank of America Corp.’s plan to charge a $5 monthly charge for some debit-card users, Obama said: “My hope is that you’re going to see a bunch of the banks who say to themselves, you know what, this is actually not good business practice.”
Obama said he doesn’t regret a federal loan guarantee to Solyndra LLC, the bankrupt solar-panel maker under investigation. “Hindsight is always 20/20,” Obama said. The decision went through the “regular review process, and people felt like this was a good bet.”
The company, based in Fremont, California, faces a probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Republicans in Congress over a $535 million federal loan guarantee it used to build a $733 million factory. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy last month with a plan to either sell the eight-month-old factory or liquidate the specialized equipment used to manufacture its solar panels.
‘Have a Shot’
“What we always understood that not every single business is going to succeed in clean energy, but if we want to compete with China, which is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into this space, if we want to compete with other countries that are heavily subsidizing the industries of the future, we’ve got to make sure that our guys here in the United States of America at least have a shot,” he said.
Obama dismissed criticism from New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, who last week called the president a “bystander in the Oval Office.”
“If the guy’s thinking about running for president, he’s going to say a lot of stuff, and I think in Republican primaries saying nasty stuff about me probably polls pretty well,” Obama said.
Asked how he gets his news, Obama said he sometimes uses an iPad given to him by Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs, who gave it to him “a little bit early.”