NORMAN — As the November presidential election draws nearer, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have plenty of reasons to be concerned, CNN correspondent Candy Crowley said Wednesday.
Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent, spoke during the University of Oklahoma's President's Associates Dinner and offered her predictions about how the six weeks leading up to the election will play out.
Most recent polls show Obama with a narrow but widening advantage over Romney. But with six weeks left before the election, Crowley said, the outcome is anybody's guess.
The presidential debates could be a major momentum shift for both candidates, Crowley said. Those three debates offer 4 ½ hours for Romney to make his case against Obama. The first debate is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Romney campaign has been short on specifics about how his policies would affect the lives of ordinary Americans, Crowley said.
The debates provide an opportunity for him to present more detailed information.
The vice presidential debate is still two weeks away, and while people don't vote for vice president, she said, they do watch the debate.
The debate likely will lay bare the contrasts between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan — namely, their age gap.
“What Joe Biden has to do is make sure it doesn't look like ‘take your son to work day,'” she said.
The Romney campaign should be concerned that Obama has a lead in the polls in the nine battleground states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, Crowley said.
Of those nine states, she said, the most crucial are Ohio, Florida and Virginia. The Romney campaign likely needs to win at least two, and possibly all three, to reach the needed 270 electoral votes.
In a normal year, Crowley said, the relatively high unemployment rate would play in Romney's favor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate for August was 8.1 percent, and no president in modern history has been reelected with an unemployment rate higher than 7.1 percent.
But Crowley thinks unemployment will be less of a factor than it was in previous years.
Voters have already factored high unemployment and weak jobs growth into their decisions about whom to support, she said.
“The fact is, I don't think that voters are looking at that anymore.”
Voters may be less concerned about unemployment, but they're still concerned about the economy, Crowley said. According to a Gallup poll released Monday, 54 percent of voters think the economy is getting worse, which Crowley said could prove to be a stumbling block for Obama.
Obama's job approval rating hovers around 51 percent, according to this week's Gallup polls.
That represents a danger zone for a sitting president, she said.
As the incumbent candidate, Obama can't rely solely on promises for the future, Crowley said.
Voters may place high expectations on candidates they don't know well, she said. But when the candidate takes office and the realities of governing the country come into play, most candidates don't match up.
“Hope and change in a campaign is great,” she said. “But after four years, there's the reality of governance.”