Commentary Magazine


Obama Abandons Independent Voters

With the presidential election just two and a half weeks away, it’s no surprise that President Obama is now solely focused on turning out his base. But it’s still somewhat jarring to read stories like today’s New York Times piece on Obama’s closing argument, and Byron York’s report on the same. From the Times:

With 19 days left before Americans go to the polls in a closely fought presidential campaign, President Obama is distilling his stump speech into the essential pitch of any political race: Vote.

No fewer than half a dozen times, Mr. Obama urged supporters at a rally here on Thursday to go to the polls. Each time he criticized Mitt Romney, drawing boos from the crowd, he repeated his call to arms: “Don’t boo — vote.” When the crowd began chanting, “Vote, vote, vote,” a satisfied-looking Mr. Obama replied, “All right, you guys are getting it.”

Obama’s closing argument is to rest his case. But what exactly is that case? York writes that it essentially amounts to an admission that he’s got nothing left in the tank:

Obama’s real second-term agenda, as outlined in his speeches and other campaign appearances, is protecting the work of his first term. He’ll keep troops out of old war zones. He’ll protect Obamacare from repeal. He’ll keep pushing, and funding, green energy. The critics who (correctly) say Obama doesn’t have a second-term agenda sometimes miss the fact that much of Obama’s argument for re-election is that he needs another term to keep in place the things he has already done.

Put two and two together, and you have an abandonment of the chase for independent voters. Obama’s exhortation to just vote is made to his supporters at rallies–people he knows (or assumes) are in his camp. And that is exactly to whom his issue-based pitch is made. The broad electorate has soured on Obama’s foreign policy, nearly erasing the lead he once had on the subject. And that’s because the country thinks a foreign policy must be about more than just adhering to withdrawal timetables. But that’s what Obama’s left-wing base wanted out of him on foreign policy. And that’s all they got.

His base wants Obamacare, but independents don’t. (Nor do many Democrats.) And the green energy mix of crony capitalism and bad investments, as in the case of Solyndra, and opposition to the Keystone pipeline, which would bring jobs in a time of high unemployment and oil at a time of high gas prices, is not pragmatic policymaking. It’s just another sop to the base.

But will all that even inspire his reliable supporters? He’s asking for a vote of appreciation, not a vote of confidence. He did what he came here to do, he’s saying, and he intends to rest on his laurels and sit on his hands in a second term. The Times story closes with the words of an Obama supporter in New Hampshire that perfectly sum up the president’s predicament:

“People aren’t fighting for Obama as outwardly as the last time,” she said.

Ms. Bliss, who was at the rally with her children, said she was not sure that Mr. Obama would improve his prospects by visiting New Hampshire again before the election. “Whenever he comes, my Republican friends, they’re so annoyed because he stops all the traffic,” she said.

Even his supporters aren’t too excited, and the best thing he can do for his prospects is to stay away from anyone outside his base. Judging by Obama’s recent campaign speeches, you don’t have to tell him twice.