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Survey Shows Obama’s Base Is Eroding

Ron Brownstein, one of the best analysts of polling numbers and political trends in the business (and quite knowledgeable about baseball trivia, I might add), reports this:

Pew found Obama’s numbers are weakest among groups that were skeptical of him last year, but appeared to be kicking the tires on him during the honeymoon stage of his presidency. Now those groups—particularly white men without a college education—are retreating rapidly amid the ideologically polarizing debates over health care, the stimulus and his administration’s overall trajectory.

But Pew’s new survey also records perceptible, if still generally modest, erosion among groups that were central to Obama’s coalition last year—including young people, college-educated white women and even partisan Democrats. That is more worrisome for Obama, especially amid signs that the bruising combat over his health care plan is inflaming the conservative base. If conservatives are energized at the same time that Obama’s core supporters are wavering, Democrats could face a withering differential in turnout during next year’s election, many party strategists fear. . . .

As the prospects for bipartisan agreement in the Senate fade, the need for Obama to unify Democrats will increase. Right now, though, he is losing Democrats from both wings of the party, even as independents soften and conservatives mobilize. Obama’s ratings in the Pew survey declined slightly from July to August among moderate Democrats (down two percentage points) and sharply among liberal Democrats (down nine percentage points).

These poll numbers suggest that health care is becoming the classic issue that wounds a president: one that unites his opponents and divides his own side. Obama probably has little hope of changing the first half of that equation; when Congress returns he’ll probably need to focus more on improving the second.

There is no question that health care is badly wounding the president. And the divisions on the Democratic side are widening, stretching from a gap into a gulf. Obama right now is being whipsawed by people like Kent Conrad in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House. Howard Dean is unhappy. And Paul Krugman, a key figure on the Left, declared that Obama’s “progressive” base is in “revolt.” These are troubled times in Obamaland. And because time and scrutiny have been the enemies of ObamaCare, I suspect things will get worse before they get better.


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