Free Markets, Free People
One of the enduring truths about national political elections in the US is you can’t win with just the support of your party base. There just aren’t enough of them. Roughly 30% on the left consider themselves to be Democrats and about the same on the right call themselves Republicans. Even if a candidate got every vote, he or she is going to be shy of the majority needed to win the office. So another enduring truth is you must win the independent vote – that big, supposedly moderate 40% in the middle – to win an election. That’s why you hear people talk about politicians “running to the middle”.
So when you’re looking at a presidential race or polling, the most interesting demographic are the “independents”, because where ever they’re going or whatever they’re saying is likely to determine the election.
Since early last year, that demographic has been increasingly deserting the Democrats in general and Barack Obama specifically. To put it succinctly, they’re not at all happy with the condition of the country, it’s direction or his policies even while many of them find Obama to still be likeable.
In 2008, Obama carried independents by a decisive 52% to 44% margin and took 30 states. In 2004, John Kerry narrowly won independents over George Bush 49% to 48%, reversing Bush’s 47% to 45% win against Al Gore in 2000.
In only nine of the last 32 months has the IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership index been above 50, and the positive months were all in 2009. Since January 2010, the index has stayed in the negative territory (below 50). The averages were 57.5, 44.2 and 44.6 for 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Independents also believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Only 19% of them are satisfied with America’s direction and 80% are not satisfied.
But will likeable be enough in 2012? Not likely.
An overwhelming share of independents (74%) like Obama personally, and 59% believe he has the vision to be president. A similar share (58%) also believe the president cares about the needs of people like them, and 59% think he’s worked hard to bring about change compared with 40% who say that he has mostly talked about it.
On the other hand, 62% disapprove of his policies, and by 63% to 35% they think he lacks the experience to be an effective president. A majority of independents (51%) do not believe that he is someone they would be proud to have as president; only 42% would be proud.
Reality is a stark reminder that performance, not rhetoric is what counts. And likeability will only carry you so far. Good intentions are laudable but only if they lead to solid results. Also of note is most people are willing to give a politician a chance to accomplish things and are even appreciative of hard work and that the politician “cares”. But the bottom line is that only results get someone re-elected. To this point, Obama simply hasn’t provided those. Independents may like him for the most part, but his job performance has not impressed the majority:
Only 15% give Obama an A or B for his handling of the economy, 16% give him good grades for managing the federal budget, and just 12% see him favorably for creating jobs and economic growth.
These low grades more than cancel out Obama’s non-economic successes, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. Nearly eight in 10 (79%) independents say his handling of the economy weighs more in their minds than getting the al-Qaida leader and mastermind of 9/11 (11%).
Funny and ironic … in his run for the presidency, his lack of a resume was probably his biggest strength. What was to criticize? What was there to assess? He sounded great.
Now, on the other side of winning the presidency, he has to finally run on his record. And, given this poll’s results, it isn’t a good one.
Another in a long line of polls showing the President’s approval job ratings continue to fall. Some key elements of the latest poll’s findings:
A majority of Americans don’t believe President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan will help lower the unemployment rate, skepticism he must overcome as he presses Congress for action and positions himself for re- election.
The downbeat assessment of the American Jobs Act reflects a growing and broad sense of dissatisfaction with the president. Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy by 62 percent to 33 percent, a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 9-12 shows. The disapproval number represents a nine point increase from six months ago.
One reason that the American people don’t believe Obama’s plan will work is because it is simply a rerun of the $800 billion plus stimulus which didn’t work. Additionally, it has since become clear that he is attempting to get his tax increases past the Republican party by making them the funding mechanism for this. Even Democrats are complaining about that (you don’t raise taxes in a recession – Econ 101).
Harry Truman he ain’t.
And again, electorally, here’s the bad news for Obama:
The president’s job approval rating also stands at the lowest of his presidency — 45 percent. That rating is driven down in part by a majority of independents, 53 percent, who disapprove of his performance.
If it stays like that, he’ll be introducing himself as the former president in 2013. In Obama campaign headquarters, aka the White House, these numbers probably have sirens wailing, lights flashing and grown men crying:
The poll hands Obama new lows in each of the categories that measures his performance on the economy: only 36 percent of respondents approve of his efforts to create jobs, 30 percent approve of how he’s tackled the budget deficit and 39 percent approve of his handling of health care.
So on the issues that most concern American voters, he’s not doing well at all.
But back to his latest attempt to push his tax and spend package through:
By a margin of 51 percent to 40 percent, Americans doubt the package of tax cuts and spending proposals intended to jumpstart job creation that Obama submitted to Congress this week will bring down the 9.1 percent jobless rate. That sentiment undermines one of the core arguments the president is making on the job act’s behalf in a nationwide campaign to build public support.
Compounding Obama’s challenge is that 56 percent of independents, whom the president won in 2008 and will need to win in 2012, are skeptical it will work.
I would guess its mostly because they recognize the package for what it is, and it is certainly not “new”. It is just another, in a long line of attempts by this administration, to push the same old tax increases through Congress. And despite what Obama claims those tax increases are not something the GOP has agreed to in the past – or ever. He gave them a substantial and supportable reason to oppose the package as Obama has presented it.
Finally the big picture as it stands today:
Forty-six percent of independents say they definitely won’t vote to re-elect the president, compared to 21 percent who definitely will support him. In 2008, Obama was backed by 52 percent of independent voters, compared to 44 percent who backed Republican nominee John McCain, an Arizona senator, according to exit polls.
And enthusiasm for Obama? Waning:
Of the respondents who said they’ve supported Obama at one point since he launched his presidential campaign in 2007, fewer than half say they still support him as fervently. Thirty- seven percent say their support has waned and 19 percent say he lost their backing because they’ve grown disappointed or angry with his leadership.
Almost a third of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents say they’d like to see Obama face a primary challenge.
Yeah, grim. He’s been found to be an empty suit by many of his own core supporters. Plus he has to run on his record for a change.
One of the things we constantly hear from the left is the public is already fed up with the obstructionist House and that the possibility exists Democrats may be able to reverse 2010 and take it back in 2012.
Well then explain NY-9, the congressional seat in a very blue district in New York city. Disgraced Democrat Anthony Weiner resigned and what should have been an almost rubber stamp Democrat win has suddenly shifted in favor of the Republican challenger.
Well part of it is those troublesome independents again. They refuse to listen to the left’s version of conventional wisdom. But there’s also a good amount of crossover voting:
Turner’s winning in a heavily Democratic district for two reasons: a huge lead with independents and a large amount of crossover support. He’s ahead by 32 points at 58-26 with voters unaffiliated with either major party. And he’s winning 29% of the Democratic vote, holding Weprin under 60% with voters of his own party, while losing just 10% of Republican partisans.
We’ve been documenting the flight of independents from the Obama (and Democratic) agenda for a couple years now. Nothing really new there. But in a district as heavily Democratic as NY-9, it takes more than capturing the independent vote if you’re a Republican. You have to get some pretty significant crossover votes as well.
So what’s causing this defection by some Democrats there? Well, I’ve documented any number of stories saying that the bloom is off the Obama rose. We had Richard Cohen in the Hamptons visiting with NYC’s liberal elite and finding very little if any support for President Obama. We have Democrat Pete DeFazio saying the “enthusiasm” for Obama is gone. Is NY-9 a referendum on the President?
If Turner wins on Tuesday it will be largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district. Obama won 55% there in 2008 but now has a staggeringly bad 31% approval rating, with 56% of voters disapproving of him. It’s a given that Republicans don’t like him but more shocking are his 16% approval rating with independents and the fact that he’s below 50% even with Democrats at 46% approving and 38% disapproving.
That’s got to be part of it. Turner is also a strong candidate and Weprin, well, not so much. But still, this is a reliably Democratic district, so that to has to be remembered. Given a strong opinion of national leadership, it should be no real chore to overcome a GOP candidate there. But that’s not the apparent case. Here’s the warning sign:
One final note on the poll and what perhaps should concern Democrats most of all. 55% of voters in the district report having voted for Obama in 2008, which is the actual percentage of the vote he got in the district. Last year a lot of the races Democrats lost were because their voters didn’t show up and the electorate was far more conservative than for a Presidential year. When you lose that way you can say, well, our voters will come back out in 2012 and we’ll be fine. But there is no enthusiasm gap here. Obama voters are showing up in the same numbers they did in 2008. But only 65% of them are voting Democratic. That’s a really big cause for concern.
It is indeed a big cause for concern if that’s a pattern that repeats across the nation. White it is possible that the Democrat may end up winning in NY-9 because crossover trend hasn’t yet solidified, the indicators contained in the PPP poll show contain some very disturbing news for Democrats, win or not.
The polls haven’t been kind to any politicians recently. Congress has netted its worst approval rating ever. And Barack Obama hasn’t been an exception as the latest Gallup poll on his job approval ratings show. If he hasn’t figure out “it is the economy, stupid” someone better wake him up. The fact is there is a discernable trend, and that trend for him is down. To the the numbers:
A new low of 26% of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, down 11 percentage points since Gallup last measured it in mid-May and well below his previous low of 35% in November 2010.
Obama earns similarly low approval for his handling of the federal budget deficit (24%) and creating jobs (29%).
Gallup goes on to point out, in relative terms, the President’s foreign policy ratings are fine.
The president fares relatively better on foreign policy matters, with 53% of Americans approving of his handling of terrorism and roughly 4 in 10 approving on foreign affairs and the situation in Afghanistan. Also, 41% approve of Obama on education.
However, the primary issue of the day sees his numbers in the dumps. And, most importantly, the constituency he most needs, independents, are none to happy with his performance, or lack thereof.
Nothing particularly surprising about the numbers from those identifying with the two major parties. But that middle column spells big trouble for the incumbent if the primary issues in November of 2012 remains jobs, the economy and the deficit. And at this point, there’s little to point to which says they won’t still be the top concerns for voters.
I tend to agree with Charles Krauthammer’s immediate reaction after Obama’s speech last night:
Krauthammer astutely picked up on Obama’s use of the poll tested word “balanced” and it’s appeal to the middle. Unless you haven’t been following these negotiations at all, it might have had some effect. But his explanation or how he defined “balanced” is pretty political. First his claim is you can only define balanced one way – his way. Secondly, you can only achieve balance one way – again, his way. Of course neither is true. However, assuming you buy into his “my way or the highway” definition, he then tells you why the Republicans – the only group who have actually offered and voted on a plan ironically called “cut, cap and balance” – are working for the corporate jet owners (anyone tired of that line yet?).
Obama specifically calls for “compromise” yet then tells us he won’t accept a short term increase in the debt ceiling. He calls it “kicking the can down the road”. What it would actually mean is kicking this can into next year – an election year. So he obviously doesn’t feel inclined to “compromise” on what would obviously hurt him politically.
What I’d have also like to have heard is why Obama voted against a debt ceiling increase when he had a chance and now that Republicans are against it it’s the wrong thing to do. Some have said that he ought to have admitted he was wrong and the GOP is wrong now. I’m sorry, but I don’t think he was wrong then and I do think he’s wrong now.
Moving on, here’s a bit of misdirection in the Obama speech:
We all want a government that lives within its means, but there are still things we need to pay for as a country -– things like new roads and bridges; weather satellites and food inspection; services to veterans and medical research.
But? But that’s not what we’re talking about is it? This is the usual political spin – talk about what the public will lose that the politician is sure the public finds valuable – at a local level it is usually firefighters, police and teachers. Never talk about reducing bureaucracy, or the costly and wasteful redundancy, inefficiency or pure bloat found in government. Nope, pretend it takes government of this size to inspect food. And pretend only government has any hand in “medical research” and without that we’re all going to be left to die from preventable conditions.
And of course, the “compromise” being sought, the “balance” desired is really aimed at the ideological agenda item Democrats have been attempting for years – tax the rich:
And keep in mind that under a balanced approach, the 98 percent of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all. None. In fact, I want to extend the payroll tax cut for working families. What we’re talking about under a balanced approach is asking Americans whose incomes have gone up the most over the last decade – millionaires and billionaires – to share in the sacrifice everyone else has to make.
I won’t bore you again with the percentage the “rich” contribute now as their ‘share’ contributes to the profligacy that Obama would like to extend. But they already carry the lion’s share of the income tax burden. Obama want’s more because he claims they can afford it. Here’s a newsflash for the politicians – you don’t get to decide who can afford what, instead you need to find a way to live within the means provided by the present revenue stream, not claim you should have more. Obviously giving politicians “more” always ends up in the same place – “more” debt.
“Balance” has nothing to do with the approach, it has to do with the result. And that should include massive spending cuts. If any “sacrifice” is to be made, it should be made by government, not the people. Even Obama admits that there is only one class of citizen responsible for this mess:
Because neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem, both parties have a responsibility to solve it.
That’s right. The only totally true statement in the entire speech. Note it wasn’t the “corporate jet owners” who got us in this condition, it was the politicians. So the only "sacrifice” I see necessary is politicians sacrificing their spending, not the public. It’s time both parties realize the spending spree is over. At least one of them seems to have gotten that message. They’re actually offering solutions that concentrate in the necessary area – spending cuts.
This is a problem of and by politicians. It’s fairly simple to understand – they’ve used their powers to ignore spending limits and now they’ve found themselves in deep, deep trouble. One side’s solution is to cut back on the spending and balance future spending to revenue and paying down the horrendous debt they’ve piled up. The other’s solution is to continue to try to put a claim on the earnings of others so they don’t have to cut as much and, frankly, can continue to spend on programs we can’t afford. Obama has been very clear on this saying on at least two occasions that savings in defense spending could be spent on other programs – such as food stamps.
Compromise? The reason we’re in this position now is we’ve compromised for decades and run up a debt that is now threatening our very well-being. This hasn’t been done by the “rich”. It hasn’t been done by the “corporate jet owners”. It hasn’t been done by anyone but compromising politicians eager to use their power to spend to buy votes.
While we may survive this particular crisis, the problem remains systemic and only promises repeats unless someone or some party actually takes a stand, says “enough” and actually enacts enforceable laws which won’t allow this to happen again.
“Balance” and “compromise” are two poll tested words that Obama is sure will appeal to the big middle and, he hopes, will sway them to his class warfare agenda and tax increases which will enable Obama to push this past his re-election attempt in 2012. He is the consummate can kicker – he just wants to kick the can further down the road than does the GOP (who also has political motives behind their “short term debt limit increase” plan).
Bottom line – stipulated there are all sorts of politics being played here, but … the GOP needs to stand firm on its principle that this crisis isn’t a problem created by too little revenue, but instead one created by profligate spending, none more profligate than that in which this particular administration has engaged. Therefore, the solution – the balanced solution – is to reduce spending (and that includes debt service) to revenue levels, not the other way around.
That’s the only “compromise” I’m interested in seeing.
There has been a lot written lately about putting too much credence in “early voting” percentages. The CW seems to be that while the numbers may indicate one thing there’s a possibility they mean something else that may, just may, favor Democrats. Seems to me they’re trying their best to make a horse race out of this coming wave election. For instance, POLITICO attempts to make the point with California:
California provides an illustrative example of the complexities of interpreting early returns. According to data gathered by the Atlas Project, a private Democratic consulting firm, 43 percent of California early voters have been Democrats, while 39 percent have been Republicans. Considering the Democrats’ current 44-31 registration advantage in the state, the GOP appears to be outpacing its share of the electorate, while Democrats appear to be staying home. Then again, in the 2006 early vote — a great year for Democratic candidates — each party drew 41 percent, a performance that was below Democratic registration and well above the Republican share.
And what about the indies? By my count that’s 82% of the electorate self-identifying as either Republican or Democrat. That means a huge 18% have identified themselves as neither and will decide the election. It was what made the difference in 2006 when independents on the whole supported Democrats.
Of course California isn’t the easiest state to analyze because of its proposition system and, well, the fact it is California. But the point holds. Many of those analyzing the early vote counts have to limit themselves to percentage turn outs from the 2 major parties because they are mostly assured that those voters voted for their party’s candidates.
So when you see these sorts of numbers, take them with a bit of grain of salt until you factor in this:
One of the most striking findings from The Hill’s polling is that voter opinions have remained rock-solid over four weeks, particularly among independents. In the overwhelming majority of districts, independent voters are breaking for Republican challengers while expressing widespread disapproval of Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress.
About all early voting numbers indicate is the level of enthusiasm among base voters. It is the indies who will decide the elections. ~McQ
There has been a lot of assertion flying around the net about how Democrats are “closing the enthusiasm” gap. The question, of course, is whether or not that’s actually true. Certainly any number or races are tightening as should be expected with 8 days to go before an election. And both sides are ginning up their Get Out The Vote drives – critical to a win. You also have the President and VP hitting the road for any number of at-risk candidates thereby punching up the visibility of those candidates and stirring up the base (although the level of enthusiasm among some base groups lags 2008’s).
But are the Democrats really closing the enthusiasm gap?
POLITICO seems to think the latest information from early voting says “no”.
POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.
Two important points there. A) GOP turnout is running ahead of the party’s share of state wide voter registration. That’s a very important indicator of where the enthusiasm lies. When that sort of an advantage gained, history shows the results are usually favorable for the party that does so. B) Independents are more pro-GOP than pro-Democrat this time around. Each of the parties command about 30 to 35% brand loyalty in any election. It may go higher in some as the early voting indicates it is for the GOP this time. However, everyone understands that the party faithful alone can’t swing an election. It takes persuading independents to sign on and vote for the party to close the deal. Independents have shown consistently in polls that they’re favoring the GOP this time around.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has taken a look at the early voting as well, and comes to pretty much the same conclusion as does POLITICO:
So, the various estimates of early voting data each show an edge for Republicans: their voters have been slightly more inclined that Democrats in most states thus far. Under the most favorable set of assumptions for them, their advantage is around 9 points; by the least favorable set of assumptions, it is more like a 4-point edge.
These figures ought to seem familiar to regular readers of this blog. How come? Because they are very close to the enthusiasm gap as inferred by the consensus of pollsters — who, on average, show Republican candidates performing about 6 points better among likely voters than among registered voters — although their advantage varies from state to state and from polling firm to polling firm.
Take a look at Silver’s full analysis – probably one of the most exhaustive you’ll find. It holds up pretty well and it underlines the fact that the reports of a Democratic comeback – a closing of the “enthusiasm gap” – is founded more in “hope” than reality. He concludes:
Overall, however, the early voting data does not provide compelling reason to reject the consensus among pollsters, which is that the enthusiasm gap is most likely to manifest itself in a mid-to-high single digit turnout advantage for Republicans. When coupled with the edge that Republican candidates have among independent voters in most races, this suggests that they are liable to have a pretty good year [emphasis mine].
That seems to me to be a reasonable conclusion despite a rising tide of media stories implying that Democrats are coming back. There’s little reason to believe independents will begin to reverse their trend away from Democrats at this late date. There has been absolutely nothing happen that would trigger such a reverse.
Keep all this in mind as you read more stories that I’d put in the “whistling past the graveyard” category about Democrats keeping the House, etc. While I don’t believe the dire predictions of 70 or 80 seats there switching sides, I do believe more than enough will turn over to give the GOP a majority.
As the health care debate has raged over the last year, one of the side benefits has been to watch the left make absolute fools of themselves trying to make it all about race. I mean to any impartial observer it is clear which side is obsessed with the issue – to the point of making statements like this:
“The conjunction of a black President and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play.”
That, of course, is Frank Rich. And Mr. Rich has never met anyone who opposes what he supports that isn’t a racist, homophobe or, well, whatever it takes to dismiss them and ignore their arguments.
The proof of this, at least to Rich, is the fact that the majority of those who’ve turned out for Tea Party events are white. Therefore, it must be about race. Not about opposing ideas. Not about freedom. Not about liberty. Race obsessed leftists simply can’t see beyond the predominant color of the crowd. And Rich isn’t the only one, of course. Joan Walsh, infamous for her pronouncement that all who oppose Obama are traitors, has crawled out from under her rock again to add racist to her condemnation. She sort of tiptoes around it, but her intent is more than clear:
The “I want my country back!” rhetoric does reflect a mind-set in which one’s country has been taken away by … others. But in thinking about race this weekend, I got more out of a column by Ron Brownstein, which examined poll data showing that white voters — wrongly — tend to believe healthcare reform helped “other people,” not themselves.
Note the premise – the “I want my country back” isn’t driven by the obvious power grab made by government this year in a myriad of areas. Oh, no – it’s about race. And it’s about whites not being happy with becoming a minority and with seeing “other people helped”. Walsh is pretty sure “other people” is code for, well, you know. Their dissatisfaction couldn’t possibly be government, or politicians, or God forbid – Democrats – could it? And they certainly couldn’t possibly conclude that any help their family might get would be vastly overshadowed by what it will eventually cost them to obtain it where that might not be the case for “others” (regardless of race)?
Oh, no. It has to be about race.
By playing the race card, Walsh, Rich and Brownstein miss the point completely. Health care is only the current reason for the demonstrated dissatisfaction. Government expansion, cost and intrusion are the real issues driving these protests. Protesters are mad at those who are doing the expansion, intruding and the spending. And protesters really don’t care what their race might be. It isn’t about race – its about redistribution, intrusion, more government and more regulation. It’s about the increasingly bigger and more costly federal government and it’s attempt to build a dependent class while billing the rest of us.
One of the reasons the Democrats are losing independents in droves can be seen in statement’s like Rich’s and implications like Wash’s. When independents see a policy they don’t like and they dissent, the first thing they’re accused of is being a racist. It has to be true – the crowd is mostly white and the president is black. The independent knows perfectly well, of course, that race has nothing to do with the reason they’re protesting, yet the Richs, Walshs and Sharptons of the world (and yes, Rich and Walsh belong in the same class as Sharpton – race hustlers) insist that’s their primary motivation. It couldn’t possibly be anything any more noble.
Even though the Obama administration tried to stress the bill’s benefits to all families — insurance for folks with preexisting conditions, restrictions on companies dropping you when you get sick, letting kids stay on parents’ policies until they’re 26, as well as subsidies that will mainly go to middle- and working-class families (the poor are already covered by Medicaid) — a Gallup survey found that 57 percent of white respondents said that the bill would help the uninsured, and 52 percent said that it would improve conditions for low-income families. Only a third of whites thought it would benefit the country, and shockingly, only 20 percent thought it would benefit their family. (Nonwhites polled were more likely to say the bill would help their families.)
I hate to get into word parsing, but read that through carefully. In fact, click on the Brownstein link and read it as well. Note the final sentence above. Nonwhites polled were “more likely” to say the bill would help their families. That means a significant portion of nonwhites apparently said the opposite. So what does that make them?
These are the sorts of convoluted arguments one is forced to make when they’re a professional race-baiter. Well, if a majority of whites are racists if they oppose health care because (pick your reason from those listed in Walsh’s quote), then what are the minority of nonwhites who feel the same way? Or are they instead just ignorant? Misinformed? Stupid? Or could they too be worried about the eventual cost to them of the monstrosity the Congress passed and called “health care reform?”
Anyone who didn’t fall off the turnip truck last night knows the purpose of playing the race card as Walsh and Rich are doing is to stifle debate and discredit dissent (when you can’t fight their ideas, call ‘em racists). It doesn’t take long for such attempts to backfire on those making the groundless accusation. That’s because the people they continue to accuse of racism know quite well they’re not racists and that race doesn’t factor into their dissatisfaction at all. That allows them to reject the argument and those making it. And one by one, independents, many of whom were Obama voters, finally tire of the continued accusations thrown and the dismissal of their dissent and they desert the Democrats.
The funny thing? I expect the Walshs, Richs and Sharptons of the world to characterize their defection as being racist as well. I’ll be interested to see their explanation of how the racists managed, at one time, to overcome their inherent racism long enough to vote Obama into office. That should be quite a treat.