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Treading Water: Why the Obama Campaign is Doing Worse Than It Seems
The New Republic ^ | July 13, 2012 | William Galston

Posted on 07/20/2012 4:18:17 AM PDT by neverdem

President Obama’s team perhaps once hoped to reenact Ronald Reagan’s triumphant 1984 march to reelection. But it’s now clear that they’re condemned to repeat George W. Bush’s much less inspiring campaign in 2004.

The playbook is clear: A barrage of negative advertising to define your opponent before he can define himself; a stream of issues and events to mobilize your base; and a meticulous ground game to squeeze every last vote out of the base come November. As for the small number of voters who haven’t made up their minds already, you don’t try to argue that they’ve never had it better, but rather that the other guy is unacceptable. In the end, you win a narrow victory by default. Sure, you haven’t really confronted the country’s deepest problems. But there’ll be plenty of time to deal with them next year.

The only justification for such a campaign is necessity, and the only vindication is victory. So how is it going so far? Three recent national surveys offer some clues.

First the toplines. ABC/Washington Post puts the candidates in a dead heat, 47-47; Quinnipiac gives Obama a narrow 46-43 edge, within the margin of error; Pew shows Obama with a 7-point lead, 50-43. ABC/WP places Obama’s job approval at 47 percent; for Quinnipiac, it’s 45 According to the latter, 47 percent of the people believe that Obama deserves reelection, while 49 don’t.

Some other ABC/WP findings help explain the electorate’s reservations about the president. Only 44 percent approve of his handling of the economy, by far the most important issue in this year’s election, versus 54 percent who don’t. When asked which candidate they trusted to do a better job handling the economy, 49 percent said Romney, while only 44 chose Obama. Quinnipiac had it a bit closer—Romney 46, Obama 45. Pew offers this oddity: while its survey finds Obama leading 48-42 on “improving economic conditions,” Romney leads 46-42 on “improving the job situation.” When asked a forward-looking question—what they thought of the president’s plans for the economy, only 44 percent of the Quinnipac sample expressed a favorable view, compared to 50 percent unfavorable. In the ABC/WP survey, only 36 percent thought that Obama’s handling of the economy was a major reason to support him, versus 43 percent who thought it was a major reason to oppose him.

Is Romney in great shape on the economy? Anything but. Only 40 percent of the WBC/WP respondents had a favorable view of his economic plans, versus 46 percent unfavorable. And by 43 to 38 percent, they thought that Obama had presented a clearer plan for the economy than had Romney. (In late October of 2008, Obama led McCain by 50 to 32 on that same measure. Romney’s doing much better than his Republican predecessor, while Obama is doing much worse than he did four years ago.)

For reasons I don’t understand, the Pew surveys have pretty consistently yielded better results for Obama—larger edges and higher shares of the electorate—than have those from most other organizations over the past few months. For our purposes, however, the most important finding from their latest survey is this: “there is no clear trend in either candidate’s support since Romney wrapped up the GOP nomination … The presidential campaign’s dynamics have changed little in recent months.” Quinnipiac finds exactly the same thing, while ABC/WP shows that the boost Obama got from the unsightly Republican nominating contest was at best temporary.

Given the strategic decisions the Obama campaign has made, two questions emerge as decisive. First, what are the prospects for a 2004-style mobilization of its base coalition? By all accounts, Obama’s team has a substantial head-start in the organizational nuts and bolts needed for a successful get-out-the-vote effort. But compared to 2008, it may be an uphill fight. In his first presidential campaign, Obama enjoyed a huge edge among young adults and did worst among older voters. But new numbers from Gallup indicate that by an astonishing 20 percentage points, fewer voters aged 18 to 29 say that they will definitely vote than they did four years ago, and their voting intentions fall short of this year’s average among all registered voters by the same margin. By contrast, relative to the electorate as a whole, more older voters are committed to voting. The same Gallup survey shows diminished enthusiasm among Hispanic voters. In 2008, members of this pivotal group were a modest 8 points below the national average for definite voters. This year, it’s 14 percent.

To be sure, there’s time to gin these numbers up, and history suggests that the intentions of groups who are more weakly attached to the electoral process can change more than those of groups for whom voting is an established habit. Still, Obama’s 2008 mobilization effort had the wind in its sails, while this year’s effort faces some significant headwinds—perhaps enough to negate the much-discussed demographic shift in his favor over the past four years.

The second key question for Obama’s strategy is whether his campaign’s attack on Mitt Romney is succeeding in defining him as an unacceptable alternative. Based on the evidence, it’s too early to say.

On the one hand, the last round of Bain attacks has clearly rattled the Romney campaign, and a smattering of survey evidence suggests that the sustained ad campaign in swing states has scored some points. On the other hand, the Pew survey found no shift since May in swing-state voter preference.

But it’s not too early to say that Obama’s vital signs look dicey. Over the past 33 months, his job approval has been lower than George W. Bush’s at a comparable time in his presidency for all but one week. Bush averaged above 50 percent in the quarter before his successful reelection campaign, while Obama has been stuck in the 46-48 percent range for months. And the famous “wrong track” measure now stands at 63 percent, versus 55 percent in the days preceding the vote in 2004. If these two numbers don’t improve for Obama, his presidency will be in jeopardy. And they probably won’t—unless the economy perks up noticeably.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2012polls; bhojobapproval; obama

1 posted on 07/20/2012 4:18:21 AM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

People voted for Obama out of desperation; why would they vote for him again? It is getting much worse out there (regardless of what his media says), and it is in ways that are visible to all. The job situation is NOT turning around, grocery prices ARE rising, the housing prices/foreclosure problem IS getting worse, and there is no way to convince people otherwise.


2 posted on 07/20/2012 4:22:29 AM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: neverdem

Nice analogy to start off except Bush won in 2008 and Obama will be landslided out in 2012.


3 posted on 07/20/2012 4:24:21 AM PDT by John W (Viva Cristo Rey!)
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To: neverdem

Obama pulling us down the ‘wrong track’.

How fitting.

Some of us saw that train coming.


4 posted on 07/20/2012 4:31:44 AM PDT by Freddd (No PA Engineers)
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To: kearnyirish2

I would offer this analysis.

First, the housing market and mortgages are in the pits. There are tens of thousands of empty houses in Florida, Arizona, Vegas and California....some now empty for three and four years. The banks are anchored down and screwed over this matter. Toss in the underwater mortgages, and you’ve millions across the US who would like to upgrade or move....but can’t, nor can they even get a better interest rate.

Second, if you read the Wall Street Journal...banks are still failing across the US. I realize that most newspapers and network news organizations aren’t mentioning it....but bank failures continue.

Third, it doesn’t matter if you go to a small town in Iowa or a big town in Florida....the economic situation in the US is believed to be negative.

Here’s the thing though....I don’t any of these will be fixed in four years or even ten years. Obama could have come in and done three or four things to at least make this negative period shorter, but instead....we’ve got a full decade ahead of us for recovery. As for voters...I think a majority of voters don’t see a bright economic future around the corner, with either candidate. But they’d like to at least see a glimmer of light, and with President Obama....that glimmer just isn’t there.


5 posted on 07/20/2012 4:36:29 AM PDT by pepsionice
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To: John W

Agreed.


6 posted on 07/20/2012 4:59:09 AM PDT by fortheDeclaration (Pr 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation:but sin is a reproach to any people)
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To: pepsionice

“I think a majority of voters don’t see a bright economic future around the corner, with either candidate. But they’d like to at least see a glimmer of light, and with President Obama....that glimmer just isn’t there.”

I agree with you there. One way the Republicans can hold out hope is income tax cuts, because that is a help to people on the individual level (Christie has won a lot of popular support here in NJ just by STABILIZING the property tax problem). People need to keep more of their income not to spur the economy with spending, but to deal with their debt (the credit card situation will make the mortgage problem look miniscule), and tax cuts will have at least a small impact on that.

The “housing crisis” itself is really just a symptom of a larger problem - the “jobs crisis”; with “normal” unemployment levels at decent jobs, there wouldn’t even be a housing crisis. The problem is that when you tell a mortgage lender that you have been at the same job for 20 years, that no longer means you have a future at that job (in fact, it probably means you’re being targeted for replacement with a younger, “cheaper” worker). We don’t have too many homes for people to live in (our population isn’t shrinking); we simply don’t have enough people who can afford to live in them because of the job situation. I will grant that there were criminal abuses that came to a head when the housing bubble was ready to burst; homes were over-valued and documentation overlooked to make a fast buck. The fact is that people who bought homes years before the housing bubble are also in trouble because of jobs/wages, and many have exacerbated that by borrowing against the homes to compensate for shortfalls in wages. Fix the jobs and you’ll fix the housing problem; there is currently no reason for someone with a McJob who can’t afford a family to even consider buying a home for the non-existent family to live in.


7 posted on 07/20/2012 5:06:39 AM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: pepsionice

In trying yourself to find answers of the forest and the trees in the “Battleground States” are canceling themselves out. Zero and his campaign minnions decided to carpet bomb negative television ads. It’s going to cpmpletely zone out there message.


8 posted on 07/20/2012 5:27:16 AM PDT by Recon Dad (Gas & Petroleum Junkie)
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To: Recon Dad

If you or others haven’t read it, I recommend this article, July Panic for Obama, by Jennifer Rubin:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/july-panic-for-obama—for-good-reason/2012/07/15/gJQARQFXmW_blog.html

“So the Obama team has shot its wad. Its opponent has more ammo and more money now. Romney hasn’t been mortally wounded. And there isn’t money from Obama to keep up the 4-to-1 spending barrage. In fact without it, Obama might well have fallen behind in the race. So the Obama team pleads for money and turns up the volume of the attacks. (After calling Romney a criminal in July, what’s left for September and October?)

“Obama is now committed to a strategy that isn’t working. “


9 posted on 07/20/2012 5:31:42 AM PDT by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: D-fendr

Thanks, I’ve moved both NC to Ohio recently and find folks have already moved on , thethrill is gone Zero should have better saved his time.


10 posted on 07/20/2012 5:44:00 AM PDT by Recon Dad (Gas & Petroleum Junkie)
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To: neverdem

When “New Republic” is straining to put a good spin on Obama’s chances, you know he’s in deep do-do.


11 posted on 07/20/2012 5:46:56 AM PDT by Tallguy (It's all 'Fun and Games' until somebody loses an eye!)
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To: Recon Dad

Nice phrasing there.

Would love to hear Christ Mathews singing “The Thrill is Gone.”


12 posted on 07/20/2012 5:47:09 AM PDT by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: neverdem

If this ends up being a repeat of 2004 and Mitt ends up beating Dear Leader it will be because (AND ONLY BECAUSE)—as many of us did in 04—we will be voting AGAINST Obummer and NOT FOR, Mittens, the same as we did against the Traitorous, Rat-Bas-Turd, Kerry and not for W as many of us Cons realized by then that the “Compassionate Conservative” was NOT who we wanted to lead us for another 4 years, but like today, we could not stand the thought of John Kerry in the Oval Office, much like we do NOT want the Fascist, Neo-Commie to have another 4 years as we fear for the Safety and Survival of our Republic.


13 posted on 07/20/2012 5:50:29 AM PDT by Conservative Vermont Vet
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To: Tallguy

I would never underestimate Obama though. The man just seems to always have luck on his side, plus a lot of ruthless people who will do just about anything to get him re-elected.


14 posted on 07/20/2012 5:54:43 AM PDT by Humbug
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To: pepsionice

Well I agree and disagree. Baby Boomers are pretty inpatient. I think with Romney AND a republican congress there will be a rapid turn around as we saw with Reagan.

I’m in a small town South of Atlanta. Things are picking up here with businesses shunning the union labor market and coming here and into Alabama. People are very optimistic.

On the other hand, I have no idea how young single people can make it.


15 posted on 07/20/2012 6:00:42 AM PDT by nikos1121
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To: nikos1121
I think with Romney AND a republican congress there will be a rapid turn around as we saw with Reagan.

I think we'll see some of that as the psychology of consumers shifts when downer-Obama leaves office. But Reagan also benefited from tough FED action that held interest rates high, and credit tight during the last couple of years of the Carter admin. Those policies continued under Reagan until inflation was brought back under control. Then the interest rates eased and things really took off.

The underlying inflation rate is much worse than it was then. The feds are hiding it with gimmicks in the way that they calculate it.

16 posted on 07/20/2012 6:05:58 AM PDT by Tallguy (It's all 'Fun and Games' until somebody loses an eye!)
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To: neverdem

Gee, maybe simply because Americans got a firsthand introduction to socialism in his first term and don’t like it very much.


17 posted on 07/20/2012 6:08:23 AM PDT by jughandle
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To: neverdem

Gee, maybe simply because Americans got a firsthand introduction to socialism in his first term and don’t like it very much.


18 posted on 07/20/2012 6:08:57 AM PDT by jughandle
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To: neverdem

Who cares what X percent of the voters are saying?

Look, the Big O will rack up a HUGE popular vote lead in such states as California, but what does that matter?
He can take the state with 51%. - The other 20%, while big numbers, are just fluff.

What is important is the sentiment in the key states that will stop him from getting 270 electoral votes.


19 posted on 07/20/2012 6:41:20 AM PDT by bill1952 (Choice is an illusion created between those with power - and those without)
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To: Conservative Vermont Vet

You’re describing a “negative mandate.” Republican presidential candidates never seem to campaign ideologically. So when they win they don’t have the battleground prepared.

Then you have the Democrat political appointees who collectively go into the old UNC “four corners offense” and the bureaucracy grinds to a halt (if not actually subverting the administration’s goals).

Rules are different for Democrats. They win by one vote — they have a mandate. One republican votes with them — it’s bi-partisan. They get elected — conservatives/republicans in government are terminated on Day One.


20 posted on 07/20/2012 7:17:12 AM PDT by Tallguy (It's all 'Fun and Games' until somebody loses an eye!)
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To: Humbug

I don’t see that at all. The American people have gone against him and the democrats on virtually everything the summer of 2009. Once is policies were evident there is a groundswell against them. He has been very ineffective on every issue since the failed stimulus.


21 posted on 07/20/2012 7:18:19 AM PDT by ilgipper ( November cannot come soon enough)
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To: ilgipper

I hope that’ll be the case, but i’m sure he and his inner circle still have some tricks up their sleeves.

The democrats also lost a lot of ground with Clinton in office and yet with the help of Perot he was able to win. No Perot this time, but Obama continues to enjoy unprecedented levels of support from the media who in turn continue to have a huge influence on people that otherwise don’t pay much attention to politics. As things stand today I think Obama loses, but I think he knows this and will try to shake things up.

Certainly at the least i expect Biden to be replaced in order to make it another historic election. Perhaps the first ever Latino to be a VP candidate or something along those lines.

Maybe also some kind of international conflict. Not to mention ratcheting up the voter fraud.It’s going to get very dirty out there.


22 posted on 07/20/2012 7:46:30 AM PDT by Humbug
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To: neverdem

Notice they neatly tuck this paragraph in the middle hoping readers would miss it, “But new numbers from Gallup indicate that by an astonishing 20 percentage points, fewer voters aged 18 to 29 say that they will definitely vote than they did four years ago, and their voting intentions fall short of this year’s average among all registered voters by the same margin. By contrast, relative to the electorate as a whole, more older voters are committed to voting. The same Gallup survey shows diminished enthusiasm among Hispanic voters. In 2008, members of this pivotal group were a modest 8 points below the national average for definite voters. This year, it’s 14 percent.”


23 posted on 07/20/2012 8:09:36 AM PDT by jmaroneps37 (Conservatism is truth. Liberalism is lies.)
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To: neverdem

Notice they neatly tuck this paragraph in the middle hoping readers would miss it, “But new numbers from Gallup indicate that by an astonishing 20 percentage points, fewer voters aged 18 to 29 say that they will definitely vote than they did four years ago, and their voting intentions fall short of this year’s average among all registered voters by the same margin. By contrast, relative to the electorate as a whole, more older voters are committed to voting. The same Gallup survey shows diminished enthusiasm among Hispanic voters. In 2008, members of this pivotal group were a modest 8 points below the national average for definite voters. This year, it’s 14 percent.”


24 posted on 07/20/2012 8:11:49 AM PDT by jmaroneps37 (Conservatism is truth. Liberalism is lies.)
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To: All

Why Bam’s losing

W’s 2004 trick won’t work

“In 2004, the election was a referendum on the incumbent, and the incumbent convinced Americans he had done the right things.

In 2012, what is the incumbent going to do — talk about somebody else’s tax returns for the next 109 days?

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/why_bam_losing_6hphTPplSqc4KPBJcKn4nO


25 posted on 07/20/2012 8:18:59 AM PDT by Hotlanta Mike (Resurrect the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC)...before there is no America!)
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To: neverdem
...by 43 to 38 percent, they thought that Obama had presented a clearer plan for the economy than had Romney.

Uh oh. Collectivism, state control of property and business, suffocating regulations, permanent uncertainty win out over freedom and economic liberty. Not a good sign at all. Maybe Romney's speech this week could have turn this tide...if it had gotten more than ZERO coverage in the MSM.

26 posted on 07/20/2012 8:38:35 AM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: pepsionice

I didn’t know so many banks were failing. Do you have a relevant link? TIA.


27 posted on 07/20/2012 8:39:09 AM PDT by Mamzelle
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To: neverdem

I could feel alot more comfortable about all the current polling in American politics if we weren’t already aware that Dem voters are polled in much higher numbers.

The media needs to be taken to the woodshed after this coming election, also. They have been more than ‘biased’.


28 posted on 07/20/2012 9:07:09 AM PDT by ridesthemiles
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To: ProtectOurFreedom
...by 43 to 38 percent, they thought that Obama had presented a clearer plan for the economy than had Romney.

Clearer does not mean better.

29 posted on 07/20/2012 7:48:18 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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