My friend and blogging colleague Rutherford Lawson felt the need to apply a liberal perspective to the GOP debate the other night. Needless to say, it was underwhelming.
However, in response to his treatise on the failings of everyone else, I thought I would respond with the pithy analysis of Daniel Flynn over at Human Events. Several of us have consistently tried to get ole Rutherford to defend this Administration based on its accomplishments. He has yet to do so. Since we can’t get him to defend the positive, maybe he can defend against the negative.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Flynn:
Less than two months ago, buzzing from the president’s gutsy call to eliminate Osama bin Laden, liberal pontificators had practically sworn in Barack Obama for his second term. “For the GOP the sands are rushing through the hourglass,” Roger Simon wrote in a column whose title had wondered whether the president was “invincible.” He claimed that with Geronimo KIA, “the Republican field has been fried like an egg.” In reality, the president’s short-term popularity boost had fried the long-term judgment of his supporters.
The reasons to believe Obama a one-term president are many and well-grounded.
10. The Declaration of Independents
Candidate Obama attracted independents. President Obama repulses them. The president entered office with the approval of 62 percent of independents. The latest Gallup poll shows support of just 42 percent of independents. Similarly, the political moderates key to his election have deserted the president as immoderate policies have emerged. There simply aren’t enough liberals for Democrats to lose moderates and win elections. No Democratic candidate over the last half century has won the presidency without winning moderates.
9. A Redder America
Barack Obama faces a redder electoral map than he did in 2008. The 2012 presidential election is more than a year away, but the Electoral College has already shifted twelve votes away from blue states and toward red states. Most of the states gaining electoral votes in the census reapportionment voted for McCain. Almost all of the states losing electoral votes voted for Obama. Even the states that Obama carried that added electoral votes—Nevada and Florida, to name two—don’t seem locks to go for the president in 2012. The loss of electoral votes isn’t fatal to Obama. It is a handicap.
8. The Issues Have Changed
Gallup’s “Monthly Most Important Problem” survey is a problem for the president. What is troubling the American people? Over the first five months of 2011, Americans point to the economy (29%), unemployment (26%), the deficit (13%), and government (11%). The issues most salient to voters uniformly work to the incumbent’s disadvantage. When Iraq, health care, and Republican mishandling of the economy mattered to voters, Obama could go on the offensive. It’s difficult to see how he scores points in 2012 on the issues that resonate with voters. He will be on his heels.
7. The Blank Canvass Isn’t Anymore
Other than William Jennings Bryan and Wendell Willkie, who is the major party nominee with a skimpier record than 2008’s Barack Obama? He could vote “present” in the Illinois legislature and run away from U.S. Senate votes while running for higher office. But presidents can’t remain blank slates for long. Unpopular ObamaCare, a sedative stimulus, ineptness in the face of the BP oil spill, and defiance of Congress in starting a third Middle Eastern war have all painted a presidential picture that has calcified conservative opposition, alienated moderates, and disillusioned liberal supporters.
6. Demoralized Liberals
Left-wing activist Ralph Nader encourages a primary challenge. Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich sues the administration over Libya. Netroots conference goers boo White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. Rather than rejoice at a universal health-care bill that eluded predecessors or the introduction of open homosexuality in the military, liberals decry Obama for retaining Bush-era tax rates, playing warden over Guantanamo Bay, and launching a new war in Libya. Never can Democrats satiate their cannibalistic base. If you think this is an overstatement, feel free to examine the teeth marks on the political carcasses of Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and Lyndon Johnson. Leftists may not primary this president or siphon votes through a suicidal third-party bid. But neither will they work or give at the levels they did in 2008.
5. Energized Conservatives
After eight years of big-government Bush, an underwhelming primary field, and a sclerotic general election campaign, conservatives could be given a mulligan for sleepwalking through the last presidential election. Conservatives, just 34 percent of the electorate in 2008’s election, comprised 42 percent of voters in 2010. From tea-parties to raucous town halls, the political dynamic of the country has been altered. It showed in 2010, when Republicans added 63 House seats, seven Senate seats, and six governors. Nothing invigorates a party’s base like an aggressive ideologue of the opposing party occupying the White House. The GOP clearly has the momentum heading into 2012.
4. The Political Ground Has Shifted Beneath the President’s Feet
A political lifetime has elapsed since Barack Obama’s election. Bailouts and big-government have yielded to tea parties and deficit angst. Gallup’s ideological identification survey registered the highest percentage of liberals in its history the year of Barack Obama’s election. Gallup’s most recent ideological identification survey registered its highest percentage of conservatives since the inaugural 1992 poll. Between the 2008 survey and last year’s, conservatives have gained seven points vis-à-vis liberals. To know liberalism isn’t to love it.
3. Historic Turnouts Aren’t Every-Four-Year Occurrences
Obama surfed to victory in 2008 on the crest of two historic waves. African Americans constituted a larger percentage of the electorate than ever recorded. And young people voted for the Democratic candidate by the greatest margin ever. Two-thirds of 18-to-29 year olds cast ballots for Obama. A staggering 19 out of every 20 African American voters pulled the lever for Obama. The precarious foundation of the Democrat’s election rested on the remarkable turnout, and the amazing one-sidedness, of two constituencies—African Americans and young people—who traditionally stay home on Election Day. That both groups have been hit especially hard by the economic slump makes it hard to envision a repeat of the amazing African American turnout and one-sided youth vote.
2. A Low Ceiling
Roger Simon wondered if the president was “invincible” in the wake of killing bin Laden. More perceptive observers saw vulnerability. Counterintuitively, the assassination of America’s most reviled enemy revealed Barack Obama’s political weaknesses, not his strengths. The president’s weekly Gallup approval average topped out at 51 percent following the bin Laden operation. The best possible week of Obama’s presidency yielded barely half of the electorate’s support. His enemies should acknowledge the man has a floor of support. His supporters should acknowledge he has a ceiling, too.
1. It’s Still the Economy, Stupid
The Misery Index, popularized by Governor Carter to hound President Ford only to be President Carter’s undoing, haunts Democrats again. The combined unemployment and inflation rates are at their worst level in twenty-eight years. The stock market has just spent six weeks in the red. The GDP grows at an anemic rate of 1.8 percent. The housing market has been in shambles for five years, and seems to be double dipping. Debt approaches GDP. Flat-lining and nose-diving trend lines make the president’s reelection precarious. Even a browbeaten Bill Daley, the president’s chief of staff, conceded to an incensed National Association of Manufacturers convention, “Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible.” He said it.
Barack Obama is a formidable campaigner. His presidency is not without accomplishment (see, Osama bin Laden). And occupants of the White House have lost general elections just five times in the last hundred years. But he has governed ineffectively and stubbornly against the wishes of the American people. He could win reelection. But the preponderance of indicators suggests his defeat. This should make conservatives hopeful for change.
UPDATE: June 30, 2011
New story, same message- it’s and uphill climb in the dark for the Administration.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
Nerves Show on Team Obama
Recent scrambling by the president’s political advisers indicates they’re very worried about his reelection chances.
Updated: June 30, 2011 | 8:59 a.m.
June 28, 2011 | 9:30 p.m.
It’s been a rough June for the White House. Instead of being able to run a campaign taking credit for economic improvement, President Obama will, according to the latest forecasts, be trying to win four more years amid a grim economy next year. The president’s reelection team, once hoping to run on a “Morning in America” theme now doesn’t have that luxury. No wonder, the president’s advisers over the past month have been making moves that suggest they’re awfully concerned about his prospects:
1. Searching for an economic message. Veteran Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg recently offered perceptive advice to the president’s team by criticizing its “getting the car out of the ditch” metaphor meant to suggest the economy is slowly improving. As Greenberg wrote: “People thought they still were in the ditch.”
This is a time when the president needs to find his inner Bill Clinton, and feel Americans’ pain. If he wants to be one of the few presidents to win reelection in a stagnant economy, he’ll have to devote less time to defending past policies, like the auto bailout, and more to offering specific solutions to help people get back to work. Think a 21st century version of FDR’s fireside chats.
But there are few signs that the president’s economic messaging has changed. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently said Democrats own the economy, but they don’t seem to be adapting their message to the bad economy likely to face them in November 2012.
2. Doubling down on manufacturing. The latest White House effort to wring good news out of a bad economy focuses on successes in the manufacturing sector: the auto bailout that put GM and Chrysler on sounder footing, as well as green initiatives.
Politically, it’s a puzzling message. While there has been a small uptick in manufacturing jobs, it’s hardly enough to be felt by the blue-collar electorate, who have been bearing the brunt of the recession and never viewed Obama too favorably in the first place. The latest Gallup weekly tracking poll shows Obama’s approval with college graduates at 51 percent, with a 40 percent approval among nongraduates.
The president’s emphasis on green jobs doesn’t help. It’s tough for many steelworkers to see themselves producing solar panels. Clean-energy jobs may be the future, but they’re not seen by displaced workers as a panacea.
Instead, Obama’s key to winning reelection is solidifying his support with college-educated whites, a swing demographic that has been more receptive to his message, along with high turnout among minorities. His key to victory is rallying white-collar professionals in swing-state suburbs, like Fairfax/Loudoun County, Va.; Wake County, N.C.; Franklin County, Ohio; Bucks County, Pa.; Clark County, Nev.—none hotbeds of manufacturing.
3. Fresh fundraising concerns. With a strong connection to the grassroots and expertise with social networking, President Obama’s reelection team mastered the art of hitting up small donors in the 2008 campaign.
But there are telltale signs that the grassroots army that propelled him is in a much less giving mood. It’s not a huge surprise; the bad economy has hit Obama’s small donors too. When you’re having trouble paying the bills, you’re not exactly pining to pitch in hard-earned money to help a powerful president.
A sign Team Obama is looking elsewhere: A Los Angeles Times report that Obama’s reelection team is already asking wealthy donors to commit the maximum $75,800 to the president’s campaign funds.
If Obama’s re-election starts looking more difficult next year, donors may well be inclined to give to the Democratic Senate and House campaign arms, seeing them as the better investment. But if they’re locked in with early maximum donations to the president’s re-election, that won’t be doable.
4. Raising the stakes in the upper South. Obama’s strategists are raising the stakes in the two battleground upper South states, North Carolina and Virginia.
They’ve never been critical cogs in a presidential strategy. If Team Obama sees them as such in 2012, it suggests the campaign is struggling in states that were comfortably on its side in 2008, particularly those in the Rust Belt.
When I interviewed leading Democratic and Republican strategists about the states toughest for Obama to hold, most were pessimistic about his prospects in North Carolina, a state that he won by just 14,000 votes.
Publicly, his strategists are arguing that the Tar Heel State’s growing numbers of college-educated suburbanites and minorities plays to Obama’s advantage. It’s no coincidence the Democrats are holding next year’s convention in Charlotte.
But if North Carolina looks like a challenge, Virginia looks within Obama’s grasp. Unemployment in the Old Dominion is far lower than most battleground states, and the growth of government jobs in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and a diversifying population play to the Democrats’ favor.
Not everyone on the Democratic side is as optimistic, however. One senior Democratic operative involved with key Virginia races believes Obama would need an African-American turnout close to his historic 2008 levels to win—a tough task in a down economy.
“When folks start to depend on recreating a specific snapshot in time, it is most always a disappointment,” the strategist said.