President Barack Obama is likely to be defeated in 2012. The reason is that he faces four serious threats. The economy is very weak and unlikely to experience a robust recovery by Election Day. Key voter groups have soured on him. He’s defending unpopular policies. And he’s made bad strategic decisions.

After boasting in June 2010 that “Our economy . . . is now growing at a good clip,” he laughingly admitted last week, “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” The humor will be lost on most. In Wednesday’s Bloomberg poll, Americans believe they are worse off than when Mr. Obama took office by a 44% to 34% margin.

In politics, 17 months can constitute several geological ages. Political fortunes can wax and wane. And weak incumbents can defeat even weaker challengers.

At the same time, objective circumstances like an anemic economy and bad decisions not only matter; they become very nearly dispositive. Mr. Obama is now at the mercy of policies and events he has set in motion. He can’t escape accountability, especially on the economy. He’s not done yet, but it will be tough to recover.

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