Perception is reality in politics, and the perception of Obama right now is not good news for him
As mentioned yesterday, incumbent presidents usually have an advantage. But that advantage depends on a few things such as performance, leadership and to a degree, circumstance. For Barack Obama he’s come up 0-3 in those areas. And the polls consistently show his numbers trending down in just about every imaginable way.
I’ve talked about enthusiasm and how important that is to an election. Enthusiasm translates into voters eagerly going to the polls. It makes any Get Out The Vote program a breeze. And usually the side that is most enthusiastic turns out the largest numbers of voters and wins the election. The difference in enthusiasm for each side is called the “enthusiasm gap”. In the last election, the GOP was on the wrong side of that gap. This time, it appears the lack of enthusiasm is on the left is both evident and growing.
That leads us to something else that can doom a campaign. Perception. In the world of politics, perception is reality. How a voter perceives a candidate and his or her chances may decide how he or she votes, or whether they even bother. And one of the polls today essentially measures perception. And in keeping with most of the polls we’ve seen lately, it’s not good news for President Obama:
Just 37 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say they expect Obama to win re-election in November 2012; 55 percent instead expect the eventual Republican nominee to win. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos is asking the president about that result in an interview today.
That sort of perception, for whatever reason, is deadly to a politician’s future. The ABC story talks about enthusiasm and expectations and how those drive GOTV in most cases. Here’s the cherry on top of the sundae though:
Democrats do expect Obama to win, but they say so only by 58-33 percent – a comparatively tepid vote of confidence within his own party. Republicans, by contrast, smell victory by a vast 83-13 percent. And independents – the linchpin of national politics – by 54-36 percent expect the Republican candidate to beat Obama.
Obviously the perception among Republicans is one of victory. Among Democrats, almost resignation to a loss (especially given 2010. But the key demographic, the one I constantly harp on about, perceive Obama as a loser in the next election. And since it is Independents who will decide that, this is decidedly bad news for the Obama campaign. It also makes one wonder why, recently, he’s abandoned his “move to the center” for a more hard left (class warfare) approach. Not smart if you want to woo the center. But then, you also have to fire up your base when you’re in the electoral shape Obama is in.
The other poll falls into the third category I mentioned above – circumstance. I remember saying just prior to the Obama win that I’m not sure, given the economic circumstances the country finds itself in, that I’d want to win that election. Certainly our economic condition has not been favorable for Obama. Not that he’s helped himself at all during his time in office. He has, for the most part, backed exactly the wrong sort of policies and actions when he could even be bothered to address the economy.
The problem for Obama is the voters have notices and deem him to be ineffective as a leader because of the condition of the economy. Right or wrong, that’s the way American politics works. So again, there’s a growing perception of ineffectiveness and ineptness about the economy, which will be the main issue in the upcoming presidential election, that is going hang around Obama’s neck like an albatross.
And that brings us to the second poll of the day:
A new CBS News poll finds that nearly seven in 10 Americans believe President Obama has not made real progress in fixing the economy.
Sixty-nine percent say the president has not made real progress on the economy, which voters overwhelmingly cite as their most important issue. Twenty-five percent say he has made real progress.
Perceptions are not improving. The percentage who said Mr. Obama has made real progress has dropped 10 points from a survey 13 months ago, when 35 percent said he had made real progress.
Just 35 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, and his approval rating on the issue has been below 40 percent since February. Fifty-three percent approve of his handling of the economy.
There’s that word again – perception.
Always wanting to find a silver lining, there’s this:
Still, most don’t blame the administration for the state of the economy. Asked who was most to blame, Americans cited the Bush administration (22 percent), followed by Wall Street (16 percent), Congress (15 percent) and then the Obama administration (12 percent.) One in 10 said "all of the above."
Sorry, in terms of the 2012 election, that’s irrelevant. That won’t drive a single vote to the polling place. Bush isn’t running and the responsibility to turn it around isn’t his. Who is to blame isn’t relevant to who can fix this infernal mess. And thus far the building perception is that Obama isn’t the man.
And perceptions about his leadership have fallen precipitously as well – from a high of 85% in January 2009 to 57% now saying he displays strong leadership qualities (not sure what they think constitute strong leadership qualities, but I’ve never seen anything I’d say qualified as such during his entire presidency). That is even more bad news for his reelection campaign.
So it goes on and on, the downward trends obvious, the news not good. Obama is battling the same sort of perception that Jimmy Carter battled, that of a weak ineffective president. The voting public got rid of Carter, and, if the polls now coming out are to be believed (and trust me, his reelection campaign believe them) Obama is headed down the same electoral road.
In both cases, I think the voting public’s has/had it right.