While we’re still a little less than a year out form the 2012 presidential election, there are some disturbing signs for the incumbent. While President Obama seems fine in those traditionally blue states that make up the Democratic base, he isn’t faring as well in the all important swing states which we the difference between defeat and victory in 2008.
It is those states which are likely to determine the winner. Each side starts with a base of over 190 electoral votes (196 for Obama, 191 for the GOP nominee). It is from there they wage campaign war and the final outcome will be determined in 12 states that could go either way.
However, the signs aren’t particularly favorable for Obama and the Democrats in those states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin). Obama took them all last time around and has to take at least half to repeat.
However, per a USA Today poll, that’s not going to be easy:
In swing states, Obama trails former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among registered voters by 5 points, 43% vs. 48%, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich by 3, 45% vs. 48%.
In the swing states, the number of self-identified Democrats (not including those who lean Democratic) fell from 35% to 30% since 2008. The number of independents rose 7 points, 35% to 42%.
But the nation’s ideological makeup creates more stress for Democrats than Republicans. In the 12 swing states identified by USA TODAY, 44% of those surveyed are conservatives, more than double the 21% who call themselves liberal.
And of course that makes independents the most sought after group by both sides. And as many polls have indicated over the last three years, independent voters have been deserting the Democrats in droves.
As mentioned they’re critical to both sides, but Democrats have to capture more of their vote to win than do Republicans:
To win a majority, the GOP needs to attract the lion’s share of conservatives plus only a fraction of the 35% who call themselves moderates.
In contrast, the Democratic candidate has to claim the solid support not only of liberals but also most of the moderates.
The problem with that mix, of course, is that moderates or independents have been deserting the Democrats because of their turn to the liberal side of issues. It is for this reason that the old class warfare meme has been revived. Obviously Obama thinks that’s the bridge that will work.
Two factors I continue to point too are key to the election outcome: enthusiasm and independents. In both areas Democrats are hurting. Ed Morrissey makes another important point:
There’s more bad news for Team Obama as well, which is the nature of head-to-head comparisons while only one party has a contested primary. The GOP has not united behind a single candidate, and the passions of the primary fight will act to depress the results for those candidates. The key here is that Obama can’t get above 45% in these swing states against either candidate, which indicates that the actual general-election results could be significantly worse — perhaps a 10-point loss. After all, Obama himself told CBS that he will be judged against the alternative, and that low polling figure at this stage in swing states bodes ill for Obama in that comparison.
It is still either/or for GOP voters while there’s only one choice for Democrats – and even with the split, Obama trails in those key states. Morrissey is right and the possibility that the real difference in the swing states could be significantly higher once a GOP nominee is decided upon makes sense. Again, bad news for the Obama campaign.
Finally, that critical enthusiasm gap I’ve mentioned before:
And the "enthusiasm gap" that helped fuel a Democratic victory last time has turned into a Republican asset. Sixty-one percent of Republicans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president next year, compared with 47% of Democrats.
As for the mix:
Among the most enthusiastic are some of the GOP’s core voters: conservatives, middle-aged men and those 50 to 64 years old. Those who are least enthused include core Democratic groups that were critical to Obama’s election in 2008, including minorities and younger voters.
Why are the Democrats key groups turned off? Here’s a clue:
While the nation’s overall unemployment rate dropped to 8.6% in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that African-American unemployment actually rose from October to 15.5%. For those 20-24, it was up to 14.2%. The jobless rate for Hispanics was unchanged at 11.4%.
Discouraged voters aren’t likely voters. And the key groups noted can’t be happy with the results of 3 years of Obama – especially with the inflated expectations he created and has been unable to deliver upon.
And, he now has to actually run on a record – that record.
Keep an eye on the swing states in the coming months. And pay particular attention to the polls in those states when the GOP finally decides on a nominee. They will most likely tell the tale of the election well before it is ever held.
I’m not much of a Paul Begala fan, but in fact, like a blind pig will eventually find an acorn, he’s gotten this one right. Why is Newt Gingrich in ascension? Well because the ABR crowd’s latest candidate, Herman Cain, imploded.
ABR you ask? Anybody But Romney.
More likely the Gingrich surge is just the latest Republican tulip craze (count the pedantic historical references I use in Newt’s honor!)—with Newt simply serving as the latest vessel for the ABR movement: Anybody But Romney.
Mitt Romney has been running for president nonstop for about five years now. And he has gone from 25 percent in the 2007 Iowa caucuses to 18 percent in the latest Bloomberg poll of Iowa voters. He’s the Harold Stassen of 2012. Face it, Mitt: they’re just not that into you.
Republicans, apparently, will date anyone before they’ll marry Mitt. Remember their brief fling with Donald Trump? Then, after he decided not to throw his hair into the ring, they fell for Michele Bachmann, the Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya of the far right. Then it was Rick Perry—the guy who claims he jogs with a loaded gun (without a safety) tucked into his shorts. And now that they’ve tired of Herman Cain’s, umm, hands-on style of leadership, it’s Newt’s turn.
Begala’s point is fairly obvious but true.
However, there’s a very important point to be made despite that. A recent poll found that Obama, Romney and Gingrich are statistically tied in the swing states. Romney, as Begala and others point out, isn’t even the consensus GOP pick. In fact, the GOP voters are willing to look at everyone else to see if any of them provide a suitable replacement for Romney. And even the candidate they’d prefer to replace Romney with is tied with the incumbent Democrat.
That isn’t good news for Democrats if you think about it. If the guy that is the last pick of the GOP faithful (or so it seems) is able to tie the incumbent president in swing states, how bad will it be when the GOP (and supporters) finally pick one candidate and get behind him (even Romney)?
Begala thinks Gingrich would be a “gift” to Democrats. He’s right to an extent. But the Republican’s gift is sitting in the White House right now. He actually has to run on a record this time, and it’s not an enviable record. While it is true that Republicans are still trying to find their man (or woman), there are indicators such as that poll that say that regardless of who they choose, even if it is a baggage laden Gingrich, Obama has big trouble.
So far those like Paul Begala choose to ignore that point. Their intent now is to attack the GOP candidates personally as they’ve always done in the past (remember Begala comes from the Clinton campaign where the politics of personal destruction were raised to an art form) and hope they manage to demonize the Republican pick enough to let their guy slip by. It’s about the only hope they have.
Gingrich will provide a target rich opportunity there. But, given the incumbent, will it be enough? I’m not so sure. I’m certainly not convinced that Gingrich will prevail, but I do think that Democrats right now are either in denial or simply not aware of how deep the electoral trouble is that their candidate is in. Whoever the GOP chooses, he will not play John McCain to this election year’s Barack Obama.
While everything is mostly focused on the GOP and their interminable debate cycle, at some point, Obama has to step out of the shadows and actually begin his run. That’s when the real games will begin, and I’m not sure the Democrats yet understand that much of the fire the GOP candidates are now receiving will shift to Obama when that happens.
It ain’t gonna be pretty when it does.