It's still the economy, stupid

New poll shows that the economy and unemployment are the two biggest issues for US voters.

Back in April, Barack Obama had it made. He swatted away the birthers once and for all, made Donald Trump look an even bigger fool than normal and then, casually, bumped off Osama Bin Laden. It was a good month - and it seems to be as good as it's going to get.

But the Bin Laden boost is now over. Unemployment remains stubbornly above 9 per cent. Growth is still anaemic. Unfortunately for Obama, no matter how many international terrorists you kill, people care about the economy and jobs far more, as the poll below attests.

Gallup 

A total of 60 per cent of respondents in a recent Gallup poll described jobs or the economy as their major concern. Unemployment was a larger concern than healthcare, fuel prices, education and immigration combined. Despite hoovering up so much time and resources, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya do not appear to be a concern for US voters. They want jobs, damnit.

Obama main weakness will be the economy, unless it picks up drastically within the next six months. Mitt Romney's first, slick campaign advert concentrated solely on jobs, picking up on Obama's comment that there would be a few "bumps in the road" on the way to recovery.

Without a fall in unemployment, these attacks will continue and the Republican candidate (whoever that may be) will be able to land easy blows. James Carville's adage is truer than ever: it's still the economy, stupid.

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Britain is running out of allies as it squares up to Russia

For whatever reason, Donald Trump is going to be no friend of an anti-Russia foreign policy.

The row over Donald Trump and that dossier rumbles on.

Nothing puts legs on a story like a domestic angle, and that the retired spy who compiled the file is a one of our own has excited Britain’s headline writers. The man in question, Christopher Steele, has gone to ground having told his neighbour to look after his cats before vanishing.

Although the dossier contains known errors, Steele is regarded in the intelligence community as a serious operator not known for passing on unsubstantiated rumours, which is one reason why American intelligence is investigating the claims.

“Britain's role in Trump dossier” is the Telegraph’s splash, “The ‘credible’ ex-MI6 man behind Trump Russia report” is the Guardian’s angle, “British spy in hiding” is the i’s splash.

But it’s not only British headline writers who are exercised by Mr Steele; the Russian government is too. “MI6 officers are never ex,” the Russian Embassy tweeted, accusing the UK of “briefing both ways - against Russia and US President”. “Kremlin blames Britain for Trump sex storm” is the Mail’s splash.

Elsewhere, Crispin Blunt, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, warns that relations between the United Kingdom and Russia are as “bad as they can get” in peacetime.

Though much of the coverage of the Trump dossier has focused on the eyecatching claims about whether or not the President-Elect was caught in a Russian honeytrap, the important thing, as I said yesterday, is that the man who is seven days from becoming President of the United States, whether through inclination or intimidation, is not going to be a reliable friend of the United Kingdom against Russia.

Though Emanuel Macron might just sneak into the second round of the French presidency, it still looks likely that the final choice for French voters will be an all-Russia affair, between Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen.

For one reason or another, Britain’s stand against Russia looks likely to be very lonely indeed.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.