Commentary Magazine


Topic: Independents

No, Virginia, There Is No Swing Voter

If a tree falls in the forest, and only swing voters are around to hear it, does it make a sound?

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If a tree falls in the forest, and only swing voters are around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Whatever your answer is to the original philosophical question, it should remain unchanged in this version. Swing voters, like political “independents,” are rarely more than science fiction.

That is not to say that voters never change their minds. It’s that when they do so, they tend to trade one opinion for another, not graduate from being undecided (no matter what they tell pollsters). More evidence for this comes from Columbia University’s Andrew Gelman, who takes to the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog to explain the results of his latest political science survey, conducted along with coauthors David Rothschild, Sharad Goel, and Doug Rivers.

At the blog, Gelman quotes the study’s abstract:

How can election polls swing so much given the increasingly polarized nature of American politics, where switching one’s support between candidates is a significant move? We investigate this question by conducting a novel panel survey of 83,283 people repeatedly polled over the last 45 days of the 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign. We find that reported swings in public opinion polls are generally not due to actual shifts in vote intention, but rather are the result of temporary periods of relatively low response rates by supporters of the reportedly slumping candidate. After correcting for this bias, we show there were nearly constant levels of support for the candidates during what appeared, based on traditional polling, to be the most volatile stretches of the campaign. Our results raise the possibility that decades of large, reported swings in public opinion — including the perennial “convention bounce” — are largely artifacts of sampling bias.

He adds:

The short story is much of the apparent changes in public opinion are actually changes in patterns of nonresponse:  When it looked like Romney jumped in popularity, what was really happening was that disaffected Democrats were not responding to the survey while resurgent Republicans were more likely to respond.

Gelman also notes a bit of humorous backstory:

This is a big deal and it represents a major change in my thinking compared to my 1993 paper with Gary King, “Why are American Presidential election campaign polls so variable when votes are so predictable?” At that time, we gave an explanation for changes in opinion, but in retrospect, now I’m thinking that many of these apparent swings were really just differential nonresponse.  Funny that we never thought of that.

That original question, though, arguably has accrued more relevance over the last two decades. It also seems like a fascinating reversal of process. Polls always carried with them a sense of scientific authority (today they are just plain fetishized). So even though the variability of polls in many elections just didn’t seem right, there wasn’t much more to that. The numbers said one thing and instincts or personal experience another. The numbers always won out. Gelman and Co. have flipped the script in a way.

The polling “swings” are consequential, however. As the authors note in their paper, they inspire a narrative of momentum and create a bandwagon effect:

For example, the Romney campaign saw a surge in donations and volunteers in the days following the debate, attributed in part to his perceived viability. Moreover, of the $400 million raised in the month between the debate and election day, donors making rational investment decisions would have likely directed some of their contributions to tighter senatorial elections if they did not believe the race for president was so close. Further, in an age of highly targeted campaign strategies (Hillygus and Shields 2009), misunderstanding voter intent likely affects decisions ranging from state-by-state spending (over $650 million was spent in that final month) to the general tone of the candidates. Finally, major poll movements often extend into the wider world, affecting, for example, stock and commodity prices (Snowberg, Wolfers and Zitzewitz 2007).

This helps explain why Barack Obama’s campaigns have been so successful. In both 2008 and 2012, the GOP presidential nominee was not exactly beloved by the party’s base. Obama had no such struggles. As I wrote here last month, we may scoff at the methods by which the Obama team fires up the Democratic base, but it is undeniable that firing up the base is an important component of a successful campaign.

In 2012 especially, it appeared bizarre that Obama had abandoned “independent” voters for Big Bird and birth control–a strategy that relied on the angry left to power the campaign. There’s a good reason to ignore independents: as I’ve argued before, they don’t exist, at least not in the numbers the media thinks. The country is deeply polarized; according to Pew, “Republicans and Democrats are further apart ideologically than at any point in recent history.” Vote swings are not the result of swing voters, and campaigns should plan accordingly.

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Romney’s Strategy Isn’t Working

The line from Romney headquarters last month was “every day we’re not talking about the economy is a day we lose.” This line, which came from the highest reaches of the campaign, was proffered to explain the unwillingness to provide substantive details on a host of policies besides the economy. Well, Romney HQ isn’t talking about the economy these days. It’s talking about the ad that all but accused Romney of murdering a woman with cancer. It’s talking about its vice-presidential pick. It’s talking about whether its ad accusing the president of gutting welfare-to-work laws is accurate. Guess what? It turns out you can’t just talk about the economy when people—and the media—want to talk about something else.

The polls suggesting he’s seven or nine points behind are surely wrong, but given that there is only one national poll that shows him ahead, we have to presume Romney is behind. He should presume he’s behind. And given that there’s no good reason whatever for Obama to be leading, one can only presume that Romney’s strategy in July and now in August is not working.

Which is why the “we only talk about the economy” line, while superficially clever, was and is so foolish—stupid, even. Of course Romney wants to focus on that one issue. It’s the one that hurts Obama the most, and the one on which he seems to score the best. He and his team have an idea about the campaign. They need to win independents to win. Independents are less ideological. So don’t press the ideological buttons. Keep it simple. Keep it plain. Obama has hurt you. I’ll help you. Fine.

But that’s not the only reason they’re doing it this way.

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The line from Romney headquarters last month was “every day we’re not talking about the economy is a day we lose.” This line, which came from the highest reaches of the campaign, was proffered to explain the unwillingness to provide substantive details on a host of policies besides the economy. Well, Romney HQ isn’t talking about the economy these days. It’s talking about the ad that all but accused Romney of murdering a woman with cancer. It’s talking about its vice-presidential pick. It’s talking about whether its ad accusing the president of gutting welfare-to-work laws is accurate. Guess what? It turns out you can’t just talk about the economy when people—and the media—want to talk about something else.

The polls suggesting he’s seven or nine points behind are surely wrong, but given that there is only one national poll that shows him ahead, we have to presume Romney is behind. He should presume he’s behind. And given that there’s no good reason whatever for Obama to be leading, one can only presume that Romney’s strategy in July and now in August is not working.

Which is why the “we only talk about the economy” line, while superficially clever, was and is so foolish—stupid, even. Of course Romney wants to focus on that one issue. It’s the one that hurts Obama the most, and the one on which he seems to score the best. He and his team have an idea about the campaign. They need to win independents to win. Independents are less ideological. So don’t press the ideological buttons. Keep it simple. Keep it plain. Obama has hurt you. I’ll help you. Fine.

But that’s not the only reason they’re doing it this way.

Romney and his people prefer this strategy because it’s what is most comfortable to them. He is not, at root, an ideological person. Neither, at root, are they. And the data suggest this is not a time for a sharply ideological campaign. The data suggest Romney needs to run as Mr. Fix-It. That is how Romney prefers to view himself. So the two match perfectly.

Alas for him, that’s not how it works. If conservative ideology is a problem with some independents, it also has the virtue of providing those who use it to discuss the nation’s problems with a pulse. Romney has just learned over the past few weeks that he cannot limit the discussion to the topics he wishes to talk about, especially when his rival is spending $100 million trying to destroy him in the swing states and when the media are largely serving his purposes by acting as though an increase in the unemployment rate and utterly unimpressive jobs-creation numbers are somehow good news.

So here’s why he should be talking about other things, releasing plans, giving speeches on big topics—because it’s the only way he can control the discussion. If he says the same thing about the economy every single day, he bores. He provides nothing new for anyone to fix on. He has to feed the beast. And it can’t just be that he puts his toe gingerly in the welfare-reform pool one day and then defend himself for three days after. It all has to keep moving.

In any case, if he doesn’t start putting things down on paper and develop the themes in speeches and get specific so that there is some meat on the bones of his policies, what on earth is he going to talk about for the next 88 days? Whether or not he killed a woman? This is a race he should be able to win, so if he loses, it won’t be because Obama won it. It will be because he lost it—and we’re seeing exactly how that might happen right now.

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Poll: Independents at Record Levels

According to a Gallup survey, the percentage of Americans identifying as political independents increased in 2011 by two points to 40 percent, the highest Gallup has ever measured. What’s interesting to note is that Gallup records from 1951-1988 indicate that the percentage of independents was generally in the low 30 percent range during those years, suggesting that the proportion of independents in 2011 was the largest in at least 60 years.

In addition, more Americans continue to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31 percent to 27 percent. (Republican identification dropped from 29 percent to 27 percent while Democratic identification held steady at 31 percent). Gallup points out that more Americans have identified as Democrats than Republicans in all but a few years since 1988 and the four-point gap between the two parties remains below the eight-point (36 percent to 28 percent) and seven-point (34 percent to 27 percent) Democratic advantages in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

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According to a Gallup survey, the percentage of Americans identifying as political independents increased in 2011 by two points to 40 percent, the highest Gallup has ever measured. What’s interesting to note is that Gallup records from 1951-1988 indicate that the percentage of independents was generally in the low 30 percent range during those years, suggesting that the proportion of independents in 2011 was the largest in at least 60 years.

In addition, more Americans continue to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31 percent to 27 percent. (Republican identification dropped from 29 percent to 27 percent while Democratic identification held steady at 31 percent). Gallup points out that more Americans have identified as Democrats than Republicans in all but a few years since 1988 and the four-point gap between the two parties remains below the eight-point (36 percent to 28 percent) and seven-point (34 percent to 27 percent) Democratic advantages in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

In addition, when independents’ party leanings are taken into account and combined with the party’s core identifiers, the parties end up tied. In 2011, 45 percent of Americans identified as Republicans or leaned to the Republican Party and 45 percent identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic. This is similar to 2010, when the Democrats had a 1-point advantage in leaned party identification yet suffered massive losses in the mid-term election. (Democrats have held an advantage for leaned party identification for most of the 21 years Gallup has tracked this measure.)

The increased independent identification is consistent with what one would expect, given the record levels of distrust in government and the unfavorable views of both parties. What’s interesting is that while the GOP’s rating is relatively low, the number of people who self-identify as conservative is at the highest number (41 percent) since the early 1990s. Thirty-six percent self-identify as moderates, while only 21 percent self-identify as liberals.

The bottom line, then, is conservatism is viewed much more favorably than the Republican Party. The number of independents is at a record level and will (as always) be key to winning the presidency. And the GOP, although it saw its support drop in 2011, is still in fairly good shape vis-à-vis the Democratic Party, especially when you take into the party leanings of independents.

 

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Bush and Palin In Strong Year-End Showing

Some very interesting things have emerged in Gallup’s 2010 “Most Admired” survey. That America’s most admired man is Barack Obama is not one of them. He is the president, you know. And even when his job-approval ratings took a dramatic downward turn, polls continued to show that Americans liked him as a person, policies aside. May he figure out how to turn this enduring admiration into collective and sustainable national purpose.

Now for the fun part: Guess who has the No. 2 spot. None other than George W. Bush. Normally, there’d be nothing remarkable in the last president being the second-most admired man in the country. But because the anti-Bush attack machine had so doggedly tried to paint him as a frightening historical outlier it’s stunning to see him treated like any American president. So much for the validity of an eight-year long, millions-strong politico-cultural movement. Bush only goes up from here.

And speaking of ex-presidents, Bush beat out Bill Clinton for the No. 2 spot. The modern-day superhero of American politics came in third, one point behind the recent embodiment of political evil (Among independents, Clinton beat Bush by one percentage point). Amazing what two years of bad liberal policy will do to sharpen the assessment facilities of the American people.

And speaking of Clintons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton topped the most-admired female list. Again, Americans respect their sitting leaders.  It’s almost disturbingly difficult to point to anything noteworthy that Hillary Clinton has done this year. Okay, it is disturbingly difficult. Perhaps, she enjoyed the benefit of any comparison with her boss in the White House. The 2008 election still looms large in the national consciousness and the sense of “choice” between the two has never completely faded, especially among Democrats.

And speaking of the 2008 election, the Democrats’ national nightmare, Sarah Palin, came in second to Hillary. Palin beat out none other than omnipresent cultural goddess Oprah Winfrey, who came in third (Both beat out First Lady Michelle Obama, who came in fourth).

To my mind, the big win goes to Palin. For all the pundit chatter about her not being a viable contender for president, the public admires her more than the most beloved media personality in the country. Like Oprah, Palin channeled her talent to connect with Americans toward its most efficient use.  The Tea Party allowed her to showcase her ability, raise her market value, and serve a cause she believes in: America. Right before the eyes of antagonistic columnists and hostile comics she became the credible face of the most transformative political movement the country has seen in decades. Her faults are apparent enough, but it’s not hard to see how the right circumstances are able to bring her talents center stage.  And it’s not hard to see why everyone loves lists.

Some very interesting things have emerged in Gallup’s 2010 “Most Admired” survey. That America’s most admired man is Barack Obama is not one of them. He is the president, you know. And even when his job-approval ratings took a dramatic downward turn, polls continued to show that Americans liked him as a person, policies aside. May he figure out how to turn this enduring admiration into collective and sustainable national purpose.

Now for the fun part: Guess who has the No. 2 spot. None other than George W. Bush. Normally, there’d be nothing remarkable in the last president being the second-most admired man in the country. But because the anti-Bush attack machine had so doggedly tried to paint him as a frightening historical outlier it’s stunning to see him treated like any American president. So much for the validity of an eight-year long, millions-strong politico-cultural movement. Bush only goes up from here.

And speaking of ex-presidents, Bush beat out Bill Clinton for the No. 2 spot. The modern-day superhero of American politics came in third, one point behind the recent embodiment of political evil (Among independents, Clinton beat Bush by one percentage point). Amazing what two years of bad liberal policy will do to sharpen the assessment facilities of the American people.

And speaking of Clintons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton topped the most-admired female list. Again, Americans respect their sitting leaders.  It’s almost disturbingly difficult to point to anything noteworthy that Hillary Clinton has done this year. Okay, it is disturbingly difficult. Perhaps, she enjoyed the benefit of any comparison with her boss in the White House. The 2008 election still looms large in the national consciousness and the sense of “choice” between the two has never completely faded, especially among Democrats.

And speaking of the 2008 election, the Democrats’ national nightmare, Sarah Palin, came in second to Hillary. Palin beat out none other than omnipresent cultural goddess Oprah Winfrey, who came in third (Both beat out First Lady Michelle Obama, who came in fourth).

To my mind, the big win goes to Palin. For all the pundit chatter about her not being a viable contender for president, the public admires her more than the most beloved media personality in the country. Like Oprah, Palin channeled her talent to connect with Americans toward its most efficient use.  The Tea Party allowed her to showcase her ability, raise her market value, and serve a cause she believes in: America. Right before the eyes of antagonistic columnists and hostile comics she became the credible face of the most transformative political movement the country has seen in decades. Her faults are apparent enough, but it’s not hard to see how the right circumstances are able to bring her talents center stage.  And it’s not hard to see why everyone loves lists.

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The Obama Primary Challenger Issue and Why It’s Misunderstood

With angry leftists starting to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama, the general reaction from serious and clever political observers has been that the idea is a preposterous one. Ed Kilgore on the New Republic‘s website (trans-ideological congratulations, by the way, to TNR’s new editor, Richard Just), my former colleague Jennifer Rubin on the WaPo site, Dave Weigel in Slate, and many others have sensibly pointed out that such a challenge would be doomed. Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats is in the 80s and not much lower among liberals (despite the outrage this week about the tax-cut deal).

The fact that Obama can surely depend on nearly universal support from black Democrats makes a primary challenge even more unlikely, they say. And not only unlikely, but pointless. Rather than achieving the near-win Eugene McCarthy scored in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire against sitting president LBJ or Pat Buchanan’s getting 38 percent against Bush the Elder in 1992, Weigel suggests that the outcome would be more like the foolish bid by Ohio Republican Rep. John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon in 1972 from the right, when Ashbrook got 9 percent there.

All worth considering. But in Kilgore’s case, the wish is father to the thought; he doesn’t want a challenge and is offering an analysis intended to talk interested Democrats and leftists out of attempting one. Weigel is giving voice to the “Oh, come on” school oft affected by those who spend most of their time thinking about politics and can’t imagine why anybody would make a political move that seems fruitless.

But here’s the thing. An Obama primary challenger wouldn’t be getting in the race to win. Pat Buchanan didn’t think he’d win, and I don’t think Eugene McCarthy thought so either. The question is whether a collection of factors next year — continued weakness in the economy and the fact that we haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan — creates the conditions under which a primary challenge will be staged. The point, which I make in my COMMENTARY article this month, is that one would arise in that instance because, in effect, the dynamic of the American political system would demand it. Read More

With angry leftists starting to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama, the general reaction from serious and clever political observers has been that the idea is a preposterous one. Ed Kilgore on the New Republic‘s website (trans-ideological congratulations, by the way, to TNR’s new editor, Richard Just), my former colleague Jennifer Rubin on the WaPo site, Dave Weigel in Slate, and many others have sensibly pointed out that such a challenge would be doomed. Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats is in the 80s and not much lower among liberals (despite the outrage this week about the tax-cut deal).

The fact that Obama can surely depend on nearly universal support from black Democrats makes a primary challenge even more unlikely, they say. And not only unlikely, but pointless. Rather than achieving the near-win Eugene McCarthy scored in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire against sitting president LBJ or Pat Buchanan’s getting 38 percent against Bush the Elder in 1992, Weigel suggests that the outcome would be more like the foolish bid by Ohio Republican Rep. John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon in 1972 from the right, when Ashbrook got 9 percent there.

All worth considering. But in Kilgore’s case, the wish is father to the thought; he doesn’t want a challenge and is offering an analysis intended to talk interested Democrats and leftists out of attempting one. Weigel is giving voice to the “Oh, come on” school oft affected by those who spend most of their time thinking about politics and can’t imagine why anybody would make a political move that seems fruitless.

But here’s the thing. An Obama primary challenger wouldn’t be getting in the race to win. Pat Buchanan didn’t think he’d win, and I don’t think Eugene McCarthy thought so either. The question is whether a collection of factors next year — continued weakness in the economy and the fact that we haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan — creates the conditions under which a primary challenge will be staged. The point, which I make in my COMMENTARY article this month, is that one would arise in that instance because, in effect, the dynamic of the American political system would demand it.

First, presume that, if the status quo remains largely unchanged, Obama’s support will decline somewhat among Democrats and liberals. They won’t like the state of things; he’ll start to smell like a loser and people tend to desert losers; and many will be genuinely angry that his ideological concessions on taxes and war have not improved matters from their perspective. Someone would do it at that point because (and this sounds sentimental, but isn’t) he actually does hear the leftist body politic crying out for someone to represent its views. Protest candidacies are not about victory, which is why Hillary Clinton won’t stage one; they’re about protest.

Also remember that the cost of entry for a protest candidate is far lower than people realize. One would get in to make a showing in New Hampshire, which is not expensive to run in — and a protest candidacy that gets any kind of purchase will, in any case, be able to raise money very fast. (If Christine O’Donnell can raise a few million dollars in three days, so can Russ Feingold under the right circumstances, like the Huffington Post’s pushing his campaign.) The question then would be what kind of showing such a person could make in that one state. As it happens, it might well be built to help a leftist protest candidate.

For one thing, African Americans make up less than 2 percent of the population of New Hampshire. (Remember: Hillary Clinton won here in 2008.) For another, independents can vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, which could allow some genuinely angry people to cast protest votes just to send Obama a message, even though such people would probably end up voting Republican in November 2012.

I have no idea whether there will be such a candidate, because I have no idea what things will look like next fall. I do know that if a candidate turns out to be less like Ashbrook and more like Buchanan, Obama will be in serious trouble. (Read my piece to find out more.) Right now, it is as foolish to presume there won’t be one, or to argue that such a candidate would be unable to make a bid damaging to Obama, as it would be to presume one will definitely rise up to challenge him.

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He Has Met the Enemy, and They Are Him

President Obama, who during the heat of the 2010 midterm election referred to Republicans as “enemies,” has now decided to refine things a bit. The car-in-the-ditch analogy is out; the-GOP-as-hostage-takers is in.

As John mentioned, in Obama’s press conference earlier today the president, in discussing the tax cut deal he has negotiated with Republicans, said, “It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed. … In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”

Mr. Obama has mastered the ability to look both unprincipled and graceless at the same time. There is also a touch of bipolarity in this administration that is doing a fair amount of damage to it.

In the Washington Post this morning, under the headline “The president extends an olive branch to the GOP,” we read this:

Although his liberal supporters are furious about the decision, President Obama’s willingness to extend all of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts is part of what White House officials say is a deliberate strategy: to demonstrate his ability to compromise with Republicans and portray the president as the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington. The move is based on a political calculation, drawn from his party’s midterm defeat, that places a premium on winning back independent voters.

It’s not clear to me how referring to a party that just smashed your own in an epic midterm election as “hostage takers” is going to help Mr. Obama either win back independents or appear as “the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington.”

It appears to me that Obama is a man of tremendous internal contradictions. He fancies himself as a post-partisan, post-ideological figure who alone can elevate public discourse. He obviously took great pride in presenting himself as America’s Socrates during the presidential campaign.

At the same time, Mr. Obama is a man of unusual arrogance who, if things don’t go his way, becomes prickly. He lashes out. And he begins to feel sorry for himself. Notoriously thin-skinned and accustomed to worshipful treatment by those around him (including the press), Obama is now clearly disquieted.

On some deep level, Obama must understand that, at this moment at least, his presidency is coming apart. It’s not at all clear to me that he’s particularly well equipped to deal with the shifting fortunes, the hardships, and the battering that a president must endure. Difficult circumstances seem to be bringing out his worst qualities rather than his best. And that may be what was on display this afternoon.

President Obama, who during the heat of the 2010 midterm election referred to Republicans as “enemies,” has now decided to refine things a bit. The car-in-the-ditch analogy is out; the-GOP-as-hostage-takers is in.

As John mentioned, in Obama’s press conference earlier today the president, in discussing the tax cut deal he has negotiated with Republicans, said, “It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed. … In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”

Mr. Obama has mastered the ability to look both unprincipled and graceless at the same time. There is also a touch of bipolarity in this administration that is doing a fair amount of damage to it.

In the Washington Post this morning, under the headline “The president extends an olive branch to the GOP,” we read this:

Although his liberal supporters are furious about the decision, President Obama’s willingness to extend all of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts is part of what White House officials say is a deliberate strategy: to demonstrate his ability to compromise with Republicans and portray the president as the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington. The move is based on a political calculation, drawn from his party’s midterm defeat, that places a premium on winning back independent voters.

It’s not clear to me how referring to a party that just smashed your own in an epic midterm election as “hostage takers” is going to help Mr. Obama either win back independents or appear as “the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington.”

It appears to me that Obama is a man of tremendous internal contradictions. He fancies himself as a post-partisan, post-ideological figure who alone can elevate public discourse. He obviously took great pride in presenting himself as America’s Socrates during the presidential campaign.

At the same time, Mr. Obama is a man of unusual arrogance who, if things don’t go his way, becomes prickly. He lashes out. And he begins to feel sorry for himself. Notoriously thin-skinned and accustomed to worshipful treatment by those around him (including the press), Obama is now clearly disquieted.

On some deep level, Obama must understand that, at this moment at least, his presidency is coming apart. It’s not at all clear to me that he’s particularly well equipped to deal with the shifting fortunes, the hardships, and the battering that a president must endure. Difficult circumstances seem to be bringing out his worst qualities rather than his best. And that may be what was on display this afternoon.

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Obama’s Independents Problem

The Third Way group put out a report that argues that the Democratic Party needs to motivate moderates, not just the liberal base, to turn out and vote. The report argues that because the number of conservatives has grown during the Obama years, energizing liberals is simply not enough. Indeed, because of the shrinking liberal base and the growing conservative one, the group found that “[i]n 16 of the 21 most hotly contested states this cycle, Democratic candidates who simply match President Obama’s overall 2008 performance with liberals, moderates and conservatives still won’t have the votes to win.” Hence the need to reach out to moderates.

The problem is that at this stage, only 25 days away from the midterm elections, Democrats can do almost nothing to appeal to moderates, particularly given that so many Democratic candidates are locked in because of their voting record. They are tied to the policies they have supported and to the larger failures of Obamaism. The public isn’t going to ignore the past 20 months; lawmakers cannot airbrush their record from history.

Third Way seems to grasp what is, to my mind, the most important political development during the Obama presidency: the hemorrhaging of support from among independents. What’s complicating the life of Obama and his party is that at the same time that independents are being alienated, the liberal base is being discouraged. The president has achieved quite a difficult feat: convincing most of the country he’s too liberal and convincing much of the Democratic base he’s not liberal enough.

As a political strategy, Obama has decided in the past few weeks to try and rally his base by (typical for Obama) hectoring and lecturing it. In the process, though, he is further estranging independents. The Obama administration, in other words, is doubling down on an approach it’s pursued (more or less) for 20 months now: governing in a deeply liberal manner. In a nation in which voters self-identify as conservatives rather than liberals by a margin of more than 2-to-1, this is destined to fail. The Obama administration has taken a bad hand and, in almost every case, made it worse. Which is why we’re going to see an epic repudiation on November 2.

The Third Way group put out a report that argues that the Democratic Party needs to motivate moderates, not just the liberal base, to turn out and vote. The report argues that because the number of conservatives has grown during the Obama years, energizing liberals is simply not enough. Indeed, because of the shrinking liberal base and the growing conservative one, the group found that “[i]n 16 of the 21 most hotly contested states this cycle, Democratic candidates who simply match President Obama’s overall 2008 performance with liberals, moderates and conservatives still won’t have the votes to win.” Hence the need to reach out to moderates.

The problem is that at this stage, only 25 days away from the midterm elections, Democrats can do almost nothing to appeal to moderates, particularly given that so many Democratic candidates are locked in because of their voting record. They are tied to the policies they have supported and to the larger failures of Obamaism. The public isn’t going to ignore the past 20 months; lawmakers cannot airbrush their record from history.

Third Way seems to grasp what is, to my mind, the most important political development during the Obama presidency: the hemorrhaging of support from among independents. What’s complicating the life of Obama and his party is that at the same time that independents are being alienated, the liberal base is being discouraged. The president has achieved quite a difficult feat: convincing most of the country he’s too liberal and convincing much of the Democratic base he’s not liberal enough.

As a political strategy, Obama has decided in the past few weeks to try and rally his base by (typical for Obama) hectoring and lecturing it. In the process, though, he is further estranging independents. The Obama administration, in other words, is doubling down on an approach it’s pursued (more or less) for 20 months now: governing in a deeply liberal manner. In a nation in which voters self-identify as conservatives rather than liberals by a margin of more than 2-to-1, this is destined to fail. The Obama administration has taken a bad hand and, in almost every case, made it worse. Which is why we’re going to see an epic repudiation on November 2.

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From Gallup, More Bad News for Obama

According to Gallup:

Presidents who retain majority job approval from Americans at the time of midterm elections are much less likely to see their party suffer heavy seat losses than are those with sub-50% approval ratings. Since 1946, when presidents are above 50% approval, their party loses an average of 14 seats in the U.S. House in the midterm elections, compared with an average loss of 36 seats when presidents are below that mark. … The clear implication is that the Democrats are vulnerable to losing a significant number of House seats this fall with Barack Obama’s approval rating averaging 45% during the last two full weeks of Gallup Daily tracking. The Republicans would need to gain 40 House seats to retake majority control.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many other political metrics — from voter intensity to the generic congressional vote to Obama’s massive loss of support among Independents to GOP dominance on the issues — are more problematic than the president’s approval rating. But as Gallup points out, that’s problematic enough.

According to Gallup:

Presidents who retain majority job approval from Americans at the time of midterm elections are much less likely to see their party suffer heavy seat losses than are those with sub-50% approval ratings. Since 1946, when presidents are above 50% approval, their party loses an average of 14 seats in the U.S. House in the midterm elections, compared with an average loss of 36 seats when presidents are below that mark. … The clear implication is that the Democrats are vulnerable to losing a significant number of House seats this fall with Barack Obama’s approval rating averaging 45% during the last two full weeks of Gallup Daily tracking. The Republicans would need to gain 40 House seats to retake majority control.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many other political metrics — from voter intensity to the generic congressional vote to Obama’s massive loss of support among Independents to GOP dominance on the issues — are more problematic than the president’s approval rating. But as Gallup points out, that’s problematic enough.

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Misconstruing the Message of Robert Bennett’s Defeat

The defeat of Robert Bennett in the Utah Republican convention has unleashed a torrent of overheated and silly analysis. For example, Politico intones:

Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was one of the most powerful and likable members of the Senate, he diligently protected Utah’s interests from his post in GOP leadership and he funneled millions of dollars back to his state as an appropriator. But Utah Republicans didn’t care. In fact, that’s exactly why they tossed him out Saturday in a humbling second ballot vote at the state party convention. … For Republicans who are measuring the drapes in anticipation of reclaiming power, Bennett’s loss should be sobering. If the anti-Washington and tea party winds keep blowing this strong, some of them could be measuring their own political graves.

Does it really mean that Republicans are imperiled and the voters are racing to elect Democrats to replace GOP stalwarts? No, of course not. What happened in Utah was the desire for a more authentic and, frankly, younger conservative voice. There is virtually no chance Utah’s seat will go to the Democrats. As Bill Kristol explained on Fox News Sunday:

Bennett was defeated by two very attractive, young conservatives who are now going into a primary runoff. And you know, one can say that he was defeated by the Tea Party, but he was actually defeated — if you look at these actual candidates, they’re impressive young conservatives who I think want to rethink fiscal policy and economic policy across the board in a much bolder way than an establishment Republican like Bob Bennett was willing to do.

But that’s not a story line that is attractive to the mainstream media — which desperately want to portray the anti-liberal sentiment sweeping the country as generically anti-Beltway. The delegates in Utah tossed Bennett because he was an insufficiently stalwart standard bearer of the small-government, anti-bailout phenomenon that is exciting the GOP base and sweeping up support from independents. As Politico acknowledges:

For others, their vote was primarily about adherence to orthodoxy on fiscal issues, a unifying cause of the tea party movement. It didn’t matter to them that Bennett favors gun rights, tougher immigration laws and even voted against President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. The first explanation offered by most delegates here referenced his vote for the TARP bailout program. A smattering of delegates even began chanting, “TARP, TARP, TARP” during one of Bennett’s floor speeches.

It stands to reason, then, that Democrats will be in more trouble, not less, than a Republican senator. So unless Democrats are running to the right of Republicans, it’s hard to see how Bennett’s defeat is good news for them.

The defeat of Robert Bennett in the Utah Republican convention has unleashed a torrent of overheated and silly analysis. For example, Politico intones:

Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was one of the most powerful and likable members of the Senate, he diligently protected Utah’s interests from his post in GOP leadership and he funneled millions of dollars back to his state as an appropriator. But Utah Republicans didn’t care. In fact, that’s exactly why they tossed him out Saturday in a humbling second ballot vote at the state party convention. … For Republicans who are measuring the drapes in anticipation of reclaiming power, Bennett’s loss should be sobering. If the anti-Washington and tea party winds keep blowing this strong, some of them could be measuring their own political graves.

Does it really mean that Republicans are imperiled and the voters are racing to elect Democrats to replace GOP stalwarts? No, of course not. What happened in Utah was the desire for a more authentic and, frankly, younger conservative voice. There is virtually no chance Utah’s seat will go to the Democrats. As Bill Kristol explained on Fox News Sunday:

Bennett was defeated by two very attractive, young conservatives who are now going into a primary runoff. And you know, one can say that he was defeated by the Tea Party, but he was actually defeated — if you look at these actual candidates, they’re impressive young conservatives who I think want to rethink fiscal policy and economic policy across the board in a much bolder way than an establishment Republican like Bob Bennett was willing to do.

But that’s not a story line that is attractive to the mainstream media — which desperately want to portray the anti-liberal sentiment sweeping the country as generically anti-Beltway. The delegates in Utah tossed Bennett because he was an insufficiently stalwart standard bearer of the small-government, anti-bailout phenomenon that is exciting the GOP base and sweeping up support from independents. As Politico acknowledges:

For others, their vote was primarily about adherence to orthodoxy on fiscal issues, a unifying cause of the tea party movement. It didn’t matter to them that Bennett favors gun rights, tougher immigration laws and even voted against President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. The first explanation offered by most delegates here referenced his vote for the TARP bailout program. A smattering of delegates even began chanting, “TARP, TARP, TARP” during one of Bennett’s floor speeches.

It stands to reason, then, that Democrats will be in more trouble, not less, than a Republican senator. So unless Democrats are running to the right of Republicans, it’s hard to see how Bennett’s defeat is good news for them.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

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Republican Resurrection

Michael Barone is a person with extraordinary knowledge about politics. So his statement in the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, The American, caught my attention: “Recent polls tell me that the Democratic Party is in the worst shape I have seen during my 50 years of following politics closely.”

Barone devotes his article to looking back at the biggest GOP victory of the last 80 years – the off-year election of 1946, in which Republicans won 13 Senate seats and 55 seats in the House – and explores the similarities and differences today.

Speaking of today, Obama’s approval rating in the latest CBS poll is at an all-time low of 44 percent, a staggering 24 points below where it was just a year ago. When it comes to health care, the President’s approval rating is even lower: only 34 percent approved, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

Republicans now lead on the congressional generic ballot in both the Gallup survey (+3) and the Rasmussen survey (+9). Voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats on nine out of 10 key issues – including on health care, which is nearly unprecedented. Following the passage of the health care bill, 53 percent now say they trust Republicans on the issue of health care, versus 37 percent who place their trust in Democrats. And according to a Marist poll, since ObamaCare passed, 53 percent of those polled said their opinion of the president has not changed. But 29 percent said their opinion of Obama has gotten worse. And only 18 percent — fewer than two in 10 — said their opinion of Obama has gotten better. To add salt to the wound: among independents, Tea Partiers’ views are preferred to Obama’s by a 50 percent to 38 percent margin.

This erosion of support for the Democratic party in such a compressed period of time is unlike anything I can recall. Democrats continue to hope that things will turn around between now and the mid-term elections. But with every passing month, this wish appears fanciful. Democrats like Bill Clinton predicted Obama and his party’s approval ratings would jump in the aftermath ObamaCare’s passage; many of us said the opposite. So far, the opposite is happening. Nor is opposition to Obama and Democrats likely to recede much between now and November; in fact it may well intensify.

Early last year, the GOP was bloodied and on the ropes, and out came the epitaphs. Sam Tanenhaus wrote a book titled The Death of Conservatism. Democrats like James Carville were saying, “A Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Today, after 15 months of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, it looks like Democrats may fall around 38 years short of that prediction. And Mr. Tanenhaus might want to get used to the concept of resurrection. Because that is what is unfolding before our eyes.

The strong wind at the backs of Republicans will at some point shift; that is the nature of American politics. For now, though, everyone agrees that November will be bad for Democrats. The only question is just how bad. At this juncture, I would say: very bad.

Michael Barone is a person with extraordinary knowledge about politics. So his statement in the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, The American, caught my attention: “Recent polls tell me that the Democratic Party is in the worst shape I have seen during my 50 years of following politics closely.”

Barone devotes his article to looking back at the biggest GOP victory of the last 80 years – the off-year election of 1946, in which Republicans won 13 Senate seats and 55 seats in the House – and explores the similarities and differences today.

Speaking of today, Obama’s approval rating in the latest CBS poll is at an all-time low of 44 percent, a staggering 24 points below where it was just a year ago. When it comes to health care, the President’s approval rating is even lower: only 34 percent approved, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

Republicans now lead on the congressional generic ballot in both the Gallup survey (+3) and the Rasmussen survey (+9). Voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats on nine out of 10 key issues – including on health care, which is nearly unprecedented. Following the passage of the health care bill, 53 percent now say they trust Republicans on the issue of health care, versus 37 percent who place their trust in Democrats. And according to a Marist poll, since ObamaCare passed, 53 percent of those polled said their opinion of the president has not changed. But 29 percent said their opinion of Obama has gotten worse. And only 18 percent — fewer than two in 10 — said their opinion of Obama has gotten better. To add salt to the wound: among independents, Tea Partiers’ views are preferred to Obama’s by a 50 percent to 38 percent margin.

This erosion of support for the Democratic party in such a compressed period of time is unlike anything I can recall. Democrats continue to hope that things will turn around between now and the mid-term elections. But with every passing month, this wish appears fanciful. Democrats like Bill Clinton predicted Obama and his party’s approval ratings would jump in the aftermath ObamaCare’s passage; many of us said the opposite. So far, the opposite is happening. Nor is opposition to Obama and Democrats likely to recede much between now and November; in fact it may well intensify.

Early last year, the GOP was bloodied and on the ropes, and out came the epitaphs. Sam Tanenhaus wrote a book titled The Death of Conservatism. Democrats like James Carville were saying, “A Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Today, after 15 months of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, it looks like Democrats may fall around 38 years short of that prediction. And Mr. Tanenhaus might want to get used to the concept of resurrection. Because that is what is unfolding before our eyes.

The strong wind at the backs of Republicans will at some point shift; that is the nature of American politics. For now, though, everyone agrees that November will be bad for Democrats. The only question is just how bad. At this juncture, I would say: very bad.

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Trouble in Paradise?

In a front-page Washington Post story today — headlined “Angry Congress lashes out at Obama” — we read this:

Growing discontent over the economy and frustration with efforts to speed its recovery boiled over Thursday on Capitol Hill in a wave of criticism and outright anger directed at the Obama administration. Episodes in both houses of Congress exposed the raw nerves of lawmakers flooded with stories of unemployment and economic hardship back home.

What is happening is that the myriad troubling signs for Obama over the past several months — crumbling support for his health-care efforts, a huge loss of support among independents, a dispirited base, an energized opposition, growing approval of the GOP’s agenda — are now manifesting themselves in election results (see the Virginia and New Jersey governors’ races) and unhappiness among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

President Obama finds himself in a difficult situation. That isn’t in itself unusual; presidents always encounter political troubles along the way. What is unusual is how quickly Obama has found himself in this precarious position. The promise of the early days of his administration seem a lifetime ago. An expression like “hope and change,” which played quite well during the campaign, now seems like a stale, empty phrase, the product of a skilled public-relations operation. Now that the reality and hardships of governing have emerged, Obama has shown himself to be, so far at least, overmatched.

It has been a difficult first year. Obama’s signature domestic initiative, health care, is deeply unpopular. Unemployment is above 10 percent and won’t be dropping significantly any time soon. The issues the country is focused on are ones that play to the advantage of the GOP. The nation is becoming more conservative in the Age of Obama. His party is increasingly nervous and restive as its members see what awaits them in 2010.

During the campaign, Barack Obama made it all sound so easy. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard for liberalism’s “sort of God,” was it?

In a front-page Washington Post story today — headlined “Angry Congress lashes out at Obama” — we read this:

Growing discontent over the economy and frustration with efforts to speed its recovery boiled over Thursday on Capitol Hill in a wave of criticism and outright anger directed at the Obama administration. Episodes in both houses of Congress exposed the raw nerves of lawmakers flooded with stories of unemployment and economic hardship back home.

What is happening is that the myriad troubling signs for Obama over the past several months — crumbling support for his health-care efforts, a huge loss of support among independents, a dispirited base, an energized opposition, growing approval of the GOP’s agenda — are now manifesting themselves in election results (see the Virginia and New Jersey governors’ races) and unhappiness among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

President Obama finds himself in a difficult situation. That isn’t in itself unusual; presidents always encounter political troubles along the way. What is unusual is how quickly Obama has found himself in this precarious position. The promise of the early days of his administration seem a lifetime ago. An expression like “hope and change,” which played quite well during the campaign, now seems like a stale, empty phrase, the product of a skilled public-relations operation. Now that the reality and hardships of governing have emerged, Obama has shown himself to be, so far at least, overmatched.

It has been a difficult first year. Obama’s signature domestic initiative, health care, is deeply unpopular. Unemployment is above 10 percent and won’t be dropping significantly any time soon. The issues the country is focused on are ones that play to the advantage of the GOP. The nation is becoming more conservative in the Age of Obama. His party is increasingly nervous and restive as its members see what awaits them in 2010.

During the campaign, Barack Obama made it all sound so easy. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard for liberalism’s “sort of God,” was it?

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Re: Graham Crumbles for Nothing

When Lindsay Graham decided to support cap-and-trade — a position not even some moderate Democrats can stomach — I observed that this was not only bad policy but also bad politics. And sure enough, moves like that and his support for now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have spelled trouble for him. This report explains:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s public support is collapsing in South Carolina — driven by a wholesale revolt among the GOP electorate and a steady erosion of his support amongst independents.

Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent — including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap & Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.

“A chunk of the GOP has always detested him, but in the last month a damn has broken,” said the consultant, who was granted anonymity to discuss the impact of two recent polls that were conducted in South Carolina (one allegedly by Graham’s own advisors). “More Republicans now oppose Sen. Graham than support him. Independents are also deserting him in huge numbers.”

This contradicts the favorite narrative of Democrats and their media handmaidens, namely that in order to stay relevant, Republicans must compromise with Obama, move leftward, and adopt policies at odds with conservative principles. It turns out that doing so alienates not only Republican voters but also independents, who themselves are not enamored of Obama’s leftist agenda. Graham won’t face the voters until 2014, so he has time to recover. But his example may serve as a warning to other Republicans: mimicking Obamaism is a losing proposition.

When Lindsay Graham decided to support cap-and-trade — a position not even some moderate Democrats can stomach — I observed that this was not only bad policy but also bad politics. And sure enough, moves like that and his support for now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have spelled trouble for him. This report explains:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s public support is collapsing in South Carolina — driven by a wholesale revolt among the GOP electorate and a steady erosion of his support amongst independents.

Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent — including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap & Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.

“A chunk of the GOP has always detested him, but in the last month a damn has broken,” said the consultant, who was granted anonymity to discuss the impact of two recent polls that were conducted in South Carolina (one allegedly by Graham’s own advisors). “More Republicans now oppose Sen. Graham than support him. Independents are also deserting him in huge numbers.”

This contradicts the favorite narrative of Democrats and their media handmaidens, namely that in order to stay relevant, Republicans must compromise with Obama, move leftward, and adopt policies at odds with conservative principles. It turns out that doing so alienates not only Republican voters but also independents, who themselves are not enamored of Obama’s leftist agenda. Graham won’t face the voters until 2014, so he has time to recover. But his example may serve as a warning to other Republicans: mimicking Obamaism is a losing proposition.

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Independents

John McCain has been focusing on independent voters of late with his global warming message and attempts to highlight differences with George W. Bush on the economy (by backing a home mortgage bailout) and foreign policy (by stressing multilateralism). Both he and Barack Obama will have their challenges in making the case with independents.

I am as skeptical as the next person when it comes to focus groups (they are self-selecting and sound suspiciously too informed and too sound-bite savvy). But the one described here sounds reasonable. Obama’s biggest problem: convincing them he’s not a wacky Left wing elitist. McCain’s: convincing them he’s not another George W. Bush.

So what does Obama do? He starts wearing that flag lapel pin and throws in a lot of patriotic talk. And if he’s smart he’ll steer clear of Clinton as a VP. According to this focus group, she’s ballot box poison with independents, even if she might calm frayed nerves in the Democratic Party.

And what’s McCain’s best tactic? Lots of YouTube moments of bipartisan praise, stressing his record of making deals with Democrats, some full-out attacks on Bush’s mismanagement of the Iraq war and Katrina, and plenty of appeals on conservative cultural issues.

All this raises a question: What’s the silliest thing each could do?

There has been some buzz that Obama will go after Republican women by using the abortion issue. That, for a candidate who has high negatives among social conservatives and who can easily be painted as an extremist on the issue (e.g. he was quite vocal in his criticism of the Supreme Court’s partial birth abortion ruling, for example), could cause more problems than it solves.

For McCain, it would be relying on his biography to the exclusion of issues (voters do care about their own pocket-book concerns), and allowing his team’s new-found fixation on whining about media coverage to go unchecked (voters don’t care about the media, and working-class independent voters don’t like complainers).

John McCain has been focusing on independent voters of late with his global warming message and attempts to highlight differences with George W. Bush on the economy (by backing a home mortgage bailout) and foreign policy (by stressing multilateralism). Both he and Barack Obama will have their challenges in making the case with independents.

I am as skeptical as the next person when it comes to focus groups (they are self-selecting and sound suspiciously too informed and too sound-bite savvy). But the one described here sounds reasonable. Obama’s biggest problem: convincing them he’s not a wacky Left wing elitist. McCain’s: convincing them he’s not another George W. Bush.

So what does Obama do? He starts wearing that flag lapel pin and throws in a lot of patriotic talk. And if he’s smart he’ll steer clear of Clinton as a VP. According to this focus group, she’s ballot box poison with independents, even if she might calm frayed nerves in the Democratic Party.

And what’s McCain’s best tactic? Lots of YouTube moments of bipartisan praise, stressing his record of making deals with Democrats, some full-out attacks on Bush’s mismanagement of the Iraq war and Katrina, and plenty of appeals on conservative cultural issues.

All this raises a question: What’s the silliest thing each could do?

There has been some buzz that Obama will go after Republican women by using the abortion issue. That, for a candidate who has high negatives among social conservatives and who can easily be painted as an extremist on the issue (e.g. he was quite vocal in his criticism of the Supreme Court’s partial birth abortion ruling, for example), could cause more problems than it solves.

For McCain, it would be relying on his biography to the exclusion of issues (voters do care about their own pocket-book concerns), and allowing his team’s new-found fixation on whining about media coverage to go unchecked (voters don’t care about the media, and working-class independent voters don’t like complainers).

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Is the Bloom Off Obama’s Rose?

There is further evidence that something has changed in the Democratic primary race. In the latest CBS poll Barack Obama went from a 16 point lead in February to a 3 point lead (a statistical tie) over Hillary Clinton among Democratic primary voters. Clinton has made progress with both male and female voters. Worse still for Obama, he now trails John McCain among independents by 8 points (after leading him by 10 a month ago) and his lead over McCain overall is down 7 points. (Liberal bloggers are panicky about other polls showing Obama falling behind McCain in key swing states.)

Is this all attributable to the Reverend Wright revelations? Unlikely. More likely is that the combined impact of Wright, Clinton’s attacks on Obama’s readiness to be commander-in-chief and some closer media scrutiny has changed the lay of the land. More worrisome for Obama is the possibility that the novelty of his candidacy has worn off and like any fad, what once was exciting now seems trite.

Whether Clinton can continue to press ahead and rack up a needed series of primary wins remains to be seen. Her own unfavorability rating in the latest CBS poll is the highest of the three remaining presidential contenders. Her progress, it appears, has come from a decline in his appeal, not necessarily a burst of enthusiasm from Democratic primary voters about her.

So if there is now a contest between candidates over which can accumulate the most baggage and become less attractive in the eyes of voters it would be foolish to count out the Clintons. Once we’re out of the realm of inspiration and into the field of negative campaigning, they have few peers.

There is further evidence that something has changed in the Democratic primary race. In the latest CBS poll Barack Obama went from a 16 point lead in February to a 3 point lead (a statistical tie) over Hillary Clinton among Democratic primary voters. Clinton has made progress with both male and female voters. Worse still for Obama, he now trails John McCain among independents by 8 points (after leading him by 10 a month ago) and his lead over McCain overall is down 7 points. (Liberal bloggers are panicky about other polls showing Obama falling behind McCain in key swing states.)

Is this all attributable to the Reverend Wright revelations? Unlikely. More likely is that the combined impact of Wright, Clinton’s attacks on Obama’s readiness to be commander-in-chief and some closer media scrutiny has changed the lay of the land. More worrisome for Obama is the possibility that the novelty of his candidacy has worn off and like any fad, what once was exciting now seems trite.

Whether Clinton can continue to press ahead and rack up a needed series of primary wins remains to be seen. Her own unfavorability rating in the latest CBS poll is the highest of the three remaining presidential contenders. Her progress, it appears, has come from a decline in his appeal, not necessarily a burst of enthusiasm from Democratic primary voters about her.

So if there is now a contest between candidates over which can accumulate the most baggage and become less attractive in the eyes of voters it would be foolish to count out the Clintons. Once we’re out of the realm of inspiration and into the field of negative campaigning, they have few peers.

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