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May 12 2012

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A Jarring Reality for Team Obama

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Most Important Election Since 1860

This is not how it was supposed to be.

According to the Democratic “wish plan,” Mitt Romney would be staggering through the final primaries about now, tarred and feathered by movement conservatives at every turn, forced to take even more “extreme” positions in a desperate attempt to cobble together a majority of delegates at Tampa, as a deeply divided GOP seethed with frustration.

While the Republicans were busy eating their own, President Obama would amass the biggest political war chest in global history, and a mending trend in economic reports would create a reassuring pattern that life was getting better.

Come September, a flush Obama campaign would have the choice to paint Mitt Romney as an extremist or a hopeless flip-flopper – probably both – while Obama would be the reassuring hand at the tiller who had guided America through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression – created by George W. Bush, Wall Street, the Top One Percent, the Oil Barons and the other selfish and stingy plutocrats who Obama and his minions had courageously battled against on behalf of the beleaguered middle class since 2009.

It wouldn’t be a pretty win, or all that overwhelming, but it would be a win, and in the end, that would be all that mattered.

But alas, it was not to be so.

First, the Republicans didn’t cooperate.

Still the more disciplined and pragmatic of the two political parties, once Republicans realized that Mitt Romney was the prohibitive favorite for the nomination, the party fell in line. When Rick Santorum dropped out of the race, the party faithful coalesced around Romney with remarkable speed and unanimity. Over 90 percent of Republicans now support Romney.

Whatever doubts GOP voters had about Romney, they pale in comparison to their doubts about Obama.

Then the economy didn’t cooperate.

After a strong QIV last year, the economy has been off to a rocky start in 2012. Economic growth in the QI 2012 was 2.2 percent; lower than the consensus average, and lower than the 3 percent of QIV ’11.

Unemployment has been a mixed bag. While the overall rate of unemployment continuously drops – in April it dropped to 8.1 percent – this is increasingly attributed to the number of people leaving the labor pool, making it appear that the employment situation is improving when it isn’t.

Moreover, the housing market continues to show few signs of life, companies, fearful of uncertain fiscal and regulatory policies supported by the President, refuse to invest in expansion, and despite losing its AAA credit rating, 2012 will be the fourth year in a row where the federal government has run a trillion plus dollar deficit, with no deficit relief in sight.

On the horizon, there are signs that Indian and Chinese economies are slowing down, the European sovereign debt crisis has just gone from bad to worse, and the Feds are increasingly concerned about the trillion dollar student loan debt bubble hear at home.

This creates a paradigm where it is hard to see the economy making a dramatic recovery in the next five months.

Well, there was always the alternate strategy of running on the President’s accomplishments, but that  doesn’t guarantee success either.

Of the President’s initiatives, only the auto bailout gets a majority of popular support, 49-44%, according to the Washington Post. Obamacare – the President’s signature achievement – is opposed by Americans 53-40%.  According to the Post, the 2009 Stimulus program and the Dodd-Frank law, which increased regulation in the financial sector, are also opposed by the public, but by closer margins.

Further, while the Obama Justice Department sued Arizona to overturn its immigration enforcement law, Americans support the law 68-27%.  Both the Arizona law and Obamacare were heard before SCOTUS this term, with decisions rendered by June. In both cases, it places the Administration in the uncomfortable position of promoting policies that are opposed by a strong majority of Americans.

Unable to count on Republican disarray or better economic numbers, and without a popular or successful record to run on, all that is left are wedge issues.  And that appears to have been the Obama strategy since the turn of the year. But the efforts have not worked out as hoped for.

The President started by submitting a patently dishonest budget, designed to show declining deficits, in increased investments without any changes to entitlement programs, based on allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for high income earners.

Then, in February, when HHS created a crisis by mandating that religious affiliated organizations provide contraceptive, abortion and sterilization services free of charge, Team Obama turned the principled, constitutionally grounded opposition to that policy into a “war on women,” to charge up the women’s vote.

When House Republicans released an honest blueprint to reduce the deficit and restore fiscal accountability, the President and his surrogates used eye poppingly dishonest language to paint the policy measures – which increased spending – as extremist, ostensibly to fire up granny and anyone else who gets a government check, that the GOP was about to throw them under the bus.

Then there was the sordid and unseemly beatification of the President and his role in the raid that took out Osama bin Laden, with TV specials, an unnecessary Presidential trip to Afghanistan and much junior varsity crowing that only Obama had the combination of skills and courage to order the raid.

Followed only this week by a fresh, manufactured controversy over whether the President would show his true colors on gay marriage; which he did at mid week, ending his very public, social odyssey on the issue, and officially supporting gay marriage; a blatant and unseemly move, apparently designed to goose fundraising and give the Left something to cheer about.

 So, to recap, since January, the President has proposed a unserious budget, turned government sponsored, regulatory interference in religious freedom into a “war on women,” excoriated Republican budgeting as social and economic armageddon, conducted a highly partisan victory lap for an American national accomplishment and inserted himself into a sensitive and highly charged social issue that still closely divides Americans.

With that campaign direction, who, but the people at Team Obama in Chicago could have been surprised when Rassmussen’s daily tracking poll showed Mitt Romney leading the President by seven points in its national survey.

And to the horror of the Obama high command, this is only the latest in a string of bad news polls.

Looking to states that will be critical to victory in November, the President is stuck in the margin of error in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado.  All states that candidate Obama won in 2008.

Further, Rasmussen reports today that Wisconsin, a reliably Democratic state that Obama carried by double digits in 2008, is a four point race – inside the margin of error.

Overall, consumer confidence is down. 56 percent of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction. Only 37 percent give President Obama positive marks for his economic stewardship, while 65 percent of Americans are angry at government policies.

Simply put, this can hardly be the place where Team Obama expected to be this time last year; unpopular, middling, defensive. And efforts to use wedge issues to move the public have either been neutered or backfired altogether.

More shocking for the political team that were the Jedi masters of 2008,  the President and his campaign seem to be playing tactically instead of strategically, jumping on opportunities as they present themselves, hoping for a game changer that has not appeared.

In practice, this policy has made the Administration look green and unsure. Indeed, President Obama himself has never appeared less presidential, as the trappings of the campaign have obscured his official responsibilities, a crucial advantage for an incumbent that is being frittered away.

There are a little less than six months until the Election. In November, May will seem like a distant memory.

But at the same time, the tools left for Team Obama to change perceptions or, barring that, to prevent the election from becoming a referendum on his increasingly unpopular presidency are slipping fast.

The talking heads believe this election will come down to the wire.

Maybe.

But for the first time, it is becoming clear that the ingredients for something much different are now present; the shifts in public perception that could lead to a decisive rejection of the Obama administration and a fresh mandate for the opposition.

This was inconceivable even a year ago.

Perhaps the gridlock of the status quo is finally about to break open.

 

 

2 comments

  1. Bob Lamborn

    Chris:
    The mindset among liberal democrats is that George W. Bush caused the current recession and that Barack Obama is working tirelessly to fix things. While Bush certainly did leave an economic mess, I can’t see how he caused it. Wasn’t it the result of a meltdown of the home mortgage world caused by far too many people who were issued home loans even if they didn’t qualify. How is that Bush’s fault?
    My recollection is that the middle six years or so of his administration produced solid economic growth and the trouble didn’t show up until the end of his term. I do think his administration could have done a better job of alerting us to the impending difficulties, but I haven’t heard anyone, republicans included, make this argument.
    Am I right or wrong?

    Bob Lamborn

  2. duffysoa

    Bob: first, many thanks for taking time to share your views.

    I completely agree. My take on Bush from the post above were my interpretation of Team Obama’s views.

    Check out my post from 2010 “Democratic Urban Legends.” It shows that under Bush, the US added the equivalent of the GDP of Japan to the US economy during his eight years. It also debunks the Democratic claim that tax cuts cause deficits. In fact, revenues increased 33% under Bush.

    As for the mortgage crisis and the financial crash. I think its impossible to blame one person or Party. Government mandates to extend credit to riskier borrowers was Democratic social engineering – supported by many in the GOP – to provide more credit to minorities. Freddie and Fannie were rewarded not for their risk profile, but how much they lent to lower income borrowers. Who was behind that? Barney Frank.

    Bush proposed an overhaul of Frannie and Freddie in 2005. It went nowhere as Frank said that Fred/Fan were in great shape.

    Could the SEC under Bush done more on Wall Street monitoring? Sure. But I don’t think the trading houses themselves were aware of the trouble that was possible because of an iron assumption that proved wrong – that housing prices would always go up. When you take away that foundation, everything collapsed.

    And I give Bush credit that when it did collapse, he took decisive action. I know TARP is not popular, but in my view it was vital. I am in that cohort that believes that had the US not done TARP the economy might well have collapsed.

    I think that Bush has a fine record. I’d put it up against Obama’s in a heart beat.

    As in any administration, there are things that could of or should have been done differently. The Medicare drug bennie could have been paid for. But even here, the Bush drug benefit – creating competition among drug suppliers – proved that private sector competion in health care lowers prices. The 10 year cost of the program was 40% less than originally anticipated by year 5.

    And finally, I’d say promises made, and promises delivered. Read Bush’s acceptance speech in 2000. He promised: lower taxes, medicare drug benefit, education reform, an operational missile defense system and social security reform. He did it all, except for SS, which Nancy Pelosi torpedoed in 2005.

    I think that when historians get some perspective in the years to come, Bush will be remembered in a better light.

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