"It's still the economy, stupid", part two

US voter confidence in the economy is falling rapidly. The good news for Obama? Well, once you're at

Economic confidence among US voters remains stubbornly low according to the latest Gallup poll. On the whole, US voters are less confident about the economy than they were in 2010.

Economic confidence is still down

In more bad news for Obama, fewer and fewer people think that things are getting better.

Gulp. Obama could be in trouble.

Unless a 9/11 style catastrophe interrupts the election process, 2012 will be fought on the economy. This makes polls like the above very, very important.

Mitt Romney's campaign, for instance, has focused so far almost entirely on unemployment - and with great success. Despite misgivings among Republican supporters about his religion and healthcare reform support for Romney is strong and, more importantly, it is increasing. While other campaigns have stuttered - particularly those of Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty - Romney has stayed out in front. It is fair to assume that this is, in part, because Romney is seen as a safe pair of hands on the economy.

How can Obama fight against this? The only bright spot for Obama is the fact that, well, things can't get much worse. There is such pessimism among voters currently that any improvement will improve Obama's polling numbers, which, while not great, are not terrible either. If the economy does pick up from its current slump, Obama will be the main political beneficiary.

Things can better. And for Obama's sake, they better.

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Donald Trump's inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era

A century in which the world's hegemonic power was a rational actor is about to give way to a more terrifying reality. 

For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office.  The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

We also have another signal – if it were needed – that he intends to turn a blind eye to the actions of autocrats around the world.

What does that mean for Brexit? It confirms that those who greeted the news that an US-UK trade deal is a “priority” for the incoming administration, including Theresa May, who described Britain as “front of the queue” for a deal with Trump’s America, should prepare themselves for disappointment.

For Europe in general, it confirms what should already been apparent: the nations of Europe are going to have be much, much more self-reliant in terms of their own security. That increases Britain’s leverage as far as the Brexit talks are concerned, in that Britain’s outsized defence spending will allow it acquire goodwill and trade favours in exchange for its role protecting the European Union’s Eastern border.

That might allow May a better deal out of Brexit than she might have got under Hillary Clinton. But there’s a reason why Trump has increased Britain’s heft as far as security and defence are concerned: it’s because his presidency ushers in an era in which we are all much, much less secure. 

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