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2012 and Obama

Last Tuesday was interesting over at RealClearPolitics.  One article read "Obama Is Almost Certain To Win Re-Election", by Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast.  Directly below that, however, another headline claimed "If Election Were Held Today, Obama Would Lose", by Brit Hume of FOX News.  Many of the other articles posted today address the 2012 Presidential election, with a wide range of possible and predicted outcomes.


Starting with Beinart's piece, he starts by admitting liberals have lost a lot of the fire they had in 2008, but claims Obama will win, primarily because "incumbents usually win".  I was amazed to see Breinart make such a claim, and fascinated to observe him concede, tacitly,  that Barack Obama the President was much less impressive than Barack Obama the candidate.  Breinart's argument basically falls apart if you stare at it for very long, but his claim does make some good points.   Part of it is the idea that Presidents who fail to win a second term often get into trouble in the primaries (Breinart seems to have forgotten someone whose initials are HRC), and demographics will once again be important, but in a way that Breinart cannot seem to bring himself to consider closely.  I will come back to that point in a bit.


Turning to Hume's piece, it's also speculative but covers both bets.  After noting Obama's failure to, well, do his job, Hume concludes that "in 18 months, if unemployment is well down, there has been a deal to curb the deficit and the Mideast is calmed down, he'll almost certainly win".  Of course, Hume does not explain just how Obama would be able to suddenly get things done now that he was only able to make worse in his first two years. 


It's always fun to play 'predict the future', but the future seldom plays along with what we expect.  I'm old enough, for example, to remember when Democrats assured Republicans in 1976 that it would be a long time before a Republican, let alone a Conservative, would win the White House.  Then Republicans won the next three presidential elections.  By 2004, some Republicans were promising that the Democrats were becoming "irrelevant", and we know what happened in the next congressional and presidential elections.  It's hard to even know what each party is up to - almost no one who was not into heavy drinking would ever have predicted that John McCain would claim the GOP nomination in 2008, or that John Kerry would claim the Democrats' nod in 2004.  And the favorites sometimes fail to live up to the expectations.  Fred Thompson sounded like a great possible candidate last time, but he just had no stamina for a real campaign, while Jon Edwards all but imploded on the other side of the aisle.  Expecting the nominal party leaders to decide who gets the nomination for 2012 would be about as lazy and  foolish as picking all four 1-seeds to make it to the Final Four ... but I digress. 


I have to say, that as things stand right now, President Obama is not really in very bad shape.  First off, his job approval in Gallup is about 46%, not great but remarkably stable. 


In comparison, Gallup's "positive intensity" ratings give no candidate better than a score of 26, with six more candidates at or above 18.  In pragmatic terms, the 2012 GOP field is behaving a lot like the 2008 GOP field did, and that is not good news for Republicans.


Essentially, Obama is polarized as a candidate, the voting public generally supports him no matter what or has rejected him, no matter what.  This is not uncommon for incumbents, and some have won re-election in just that condition.  Obama's election strategy is basically just a matter of getting more Democrats than Republicans to turn out, and swaying the Indies or boring them enough to stay home.   


For Republicans, it's important to learn and recall past lessons, like John McCain in 2008, Bob Dole in 1996, and Tom Dewey in 1944/1948.  We all expected to find 'another Reagan' somewhere after the Gipper left the White House, but really ... how long did we have to wait for the original Reagan to arrive?  I know W was far from conservative enough for a lot of people on the Right, but seriously, in the last 22 years, hasn't Dubya been better than anyone else to win the job?  Look, seriously, if he could run again I'd vote for W again, and not just because it would make a lot of liberal heads explode.  Dubs understood the job, and took it seriously.  It's clear to me that many candidates, in both major parties, neither fully understand the job nor have truly committed to its cost and commitment.   If you have voted in five or more presidential elections, stop and consider how many times you have genuinely been excited by a candidate.  So, you can see the problem.  Obama is not counting on re-election because he will do a great job between now and then, but because he figures the Republicans won't offer a nominee that voters will find irresistible.  And the evidence suggests he may be right.


There are all kinds of number games we can play to show how the election will be decided, from "battle  state" analyses and 'prime issue' trends, but in the end it comes down to demographics and energizing  your base.  After all, no one seriously believes that ten percent of the population decided to switch  political parties from one presidential election to the next one, but large swings of voter support are not  uncommon.  It comes down to people losing confidence in a candidate up for re-election, but more often it comes down to who gets motivated to go vote, and who gets discouraged and stays home.  In close elections, the independents decide the vote, and again, their participation also comes down to making the case for them to care enough to vote.


About 132 million people voted in the 2008 election.  That's a nice-sounding number, but we have more than 300 million people living here, and over 231 million people of voting age, according to the NEC.


That means almost 100 million people were old enough to vote, but did not.  Gallup says that about 71 percent of voting age people were registered to vote in 2008, meaning that about 164 million people were registered to vote, so in 2008 about 32 million people were actually registered to vote but did not. 


Put in English, that means that the 32 million people who were registered but did not vote could have changed the election results, and the additional 100 million people who were old enough to register to vote but did not certainly would have mattered.  The message is obvious; you have to convince people that their vote matters, and that your cause is right.  Trite but true.


Barack Obama got a lot of support, in the primaries and the general election, on the brand name of  'First Black President'.  It was the cool thing to do, the sign of a nuanced mind, but in practical terms it was a one-time trick.  Obama won't beat Clinton in the 2012 primaries if that's all he has in his armory.  But let's be just as clear that he won't lose to anything that looks like a stunt, either.  I will go out on a limb and say that Sarah Palin - as we know her today - cannot beat Barack Obama in a head-to-head election.  She's smart enough and probably can do the job, but she has a serious image problem to overcome.  But that's true for a lot of other candidates, as well.  Blame the media or whatever, there's no Kennedy or Reagan in the field that I can see.  


The race is just begun, but like it or not, for now everyone is still chasing Obama.


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Comments (35)

The only candidates for the... (Below threshold)

The only candidates for the Republican nomination so far are the 'also-rans' of the past. They've had their 15 minutes of fame. The next election is theirs to lose, all they have to do is pick another McCain.

Image may be everything in ... (Below threshold)

Image may be everything in politics, DJ, but it's pretty clear that in at least ONE case the ONLY thing that was there was the image.

Glenn Reynolds said that he'd vote for a syphilitic camel if that was the only choice against Obama. Me? I'm tired of seeing the same tired faces, people who get to the top of the heap and go "Hey, it's my turn to run for President!" (Yeah, Dole and McCain, I'm looking at you.)

So, you think Palin's got an image problem? That syphilitic camel's going to be looking better and better the longer Obama's in office. And a lot of the folks who sat out '08 won't do so again.

One other thought. To neut... (Below threshold)

One other thought. To neutralize Obama in 2012, all the conservatives have to do is maintain a majority in the House and 60 votes in the senate.

since the "race" for 2012 e... (Below threshold)

since the "race" for 2012 exists only in pundits minds I find it interesting that you consider it a race when one one party is actually campaigning ...

Independents will never trust Obama again, he has been tagged with the mark of the liar ... he's toast ... plus $5 gas this summer, another housing crash and unemployment above 8% will put a fork in him ...

That "one trick pony" of Fi... (Below threshold)

That "one trick pony" of First Black President WILL work again, I'm afraid. Obama is "cool" and "hip" and most people in this country are just that shallow politically. The only person I have seen among the Republicans who could actually defeat Obama is Marco Rubio and he refuses to run because he rightfully feels a duty to the people of Florida and feels the need for more experience as well. The only hope we Republicans have is to fight boldly (no pale pastels) but that isn't happening - Boehner is already capitulating.

There are two paths for oba... (Below threshold)
Jim m:

There are two paths for obama to win reelection. The first is for the economy to turn around and for him to be able to take credit for it. I score that as unlikely since inflation is starting to take off and the last time unemployment was this high it took 10 years for it to come down and by that time we were electing Bush 41.

The second way, and to my mind far more likely, is for some egomaniac like Donald Trump to split the opposition and draw off the 5% or so necessary to allow obama to win a large enough of a plurality to win the electoral college.

I see the second scenario almost as a sure thing right now with the media virtually urging him to run for the very reasons I mentioned above. Of course they won't cop to that but it seems clear enough that they want someone to split the opposition in the worst way.

garand"To neutrali... (Below threshold)
retired military:


"To neutralize Obama in 2012, all the conservatives have to do is maintain a majority in the House and 60 votes in the senate."

Well majority in house and senate are doable and will happen.

60 votes in senate. Doubt it. Even if we get 60 then RINOS then come out in full force and go lib on us. (Look at Snowe and Collins)

Plus between 2012 and 2016 I would bet at least 2 more SCOTUS openings come up.

That is if we dont lose Breyer and Ginsberg next year becuase they want to ensure a liberal president replaces them.

Then we have Kennedy currently 74 and Scalia who is also 74. No gaurentee either of them will last another 6 years.

No, If we can get a solid conservative (Not Romneycare, Huckabee) then we could make a real difference where it counts with whatever congressional leads we get. I think Palin would have a rough election and Hillary would be on the Dem ticket to counter her for the woman vote.

Trump as possibly VP as most dont take him as a serious candidate but we definitely dont need him doing a Perot.

When it gets down to it, Ba... (Below threshold)

When it gets down to it, Barry will have to run 'on his record'.

And people tend to vote their wallet.

The economy will decide who will win.

I will go out on a... (Below threshold)
I will go out on a limb and say that Sarah Palin - as we know her today - cannot beat Barack Obama in a head-to-head election. She's smart enough and probably can do the job, but she has a serious image problem to overcome.

A lot of that image problem was not of her making. The Obama loving media had a lot to do with that. She was vilified from the get go. Granted the interview with Katie Couric did not go well, but Palin was ambushed right off the top and she did not really know what was going on, having come a sheltered area and isolated area like Alaska.

If she does run, this time, she will be better equipped to handle all of the smear tactics that will thrown out. Of course, the libs will use the same old tired ones that have been out there for the last 50 odd years.

FWIW, Jimmy Carter's Gallup... (Below threshold)
LeBron Steinman:

FWIW, Jimmy Carter's Gallup approval in early April of 1978 was 48%.
He lost in 1980 in a landslide.

Also, why is the font in th... (Below threshold)
LeBron Steinman:

Also, why is the font in this post so large?

I know of NO ONE in my smal... (Below threshold)

I know of NO ONE in my small corner of the world who admits to voting for Obama in 2008 who would vote for him again in 2012. NONE, not one. I understand, this is the exact opposite of a scientific poll, but it does include lifelong Democrats/liberals and independents and Republicans.

On the other hand, they only are people who have JOBS and are only hurt, not helped, by Obama's Marxist notions. That makes a difference.

Hopefully, my small sampler will be reflected at a national level, too, because I believe this President is one of the biggest disasters to EVER hit this country, and yeah, he's not the worst...we had a vicious and horrific Civil War and a few other things I'd say were truly worse...but he's still a huge disaster.

Also, why is the font in... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Also, why is the font in this post so large?

It's extra large so the lefties here can read it. It's sort of like the Dick and Jane books they find so challenging.

I am not going to comment o... (Below threshold)

I am not going to comment on the entire until I get to digest it, but this caught my eye -

"...almost no one who was not into heavy drinking would ever have predicted that John McCain would claim the GOP nomination in 2008..."

Sorry, you are flat-out ignorant about this. Anybody who understands GOP primary voters could have predicted, as far back as early 2007, that the GOP would nominate nobody else but McCain.

I predicted at the end of 2006, when the candidates' names became finalized, that McCain would win, even when 143 out of 148 public polls had Giuliani leading throughout 2007, and even when McCain was defunct.

Simple logic - McCain mirrored the views of the majority of GOP primary voters. He was not liked by the conservative elite in DC and the conservative bloggers, but that is not who determine the GOP nomination.

There was no daylight between McCain and GOP primary voters on social and defence matters (the two legs of the stool), and very little on fiscal matters. The knock on McCain among the conservative elite was that he was a maverick who was quick to make deals with the devil, but this thinking only animates the elites and bloggers anyway.

This is the advice I give to all: among all the candidates who are seriously running, look for the candidate whose views (how real GOP voters see them, not what they profess to be) are most in common with the GOP base (again, not the commentariat). That person will be the nominee, regardless of current polls. Anyone who is at odds with where the base is, will not win.

Simple logic - McC... (Below threshold)
Simple logic - McCain mirrored the views of the majority of GOP primary voters. He was not liked by the conservative elite in DC and the conservative bloggers, but that is not who determine the GOP nomination.

McCain did not mirror the views of the majority of the GOP primary voters, who were very conservative, while McCain was and is still considered a RINO. There are also very few conservative elites in DC. Most of them were, until the rise of the Tea Party, were RINOs, just like McCain. Even the so-called conservative press that was headquartered in DC were for McCain. Them and the liberal media.

The liberal media also backed McCain in the 2000 primaries, even after George W Bush had beaten him to win the nomination. That is another reason there was so much hatred from the liberal establishment for Bush. Bush beat their GOP candidate and they did not like that. They also knew that McCain had no chance in beating Al Gore, but the nomination and election of Bush put a monkey wrench into that plan.

The people that lived in flyover country did not have a chance to get their say in the matter of the 2008 GOP primaries, because the nominee had been chosen before a lot of the western states held primaries. This was done by design, so that their chosen candidate did not get booted out of the running. So in all actuality, the people that really had the say were the elites that were and still are in the Northeast, the left coast and Dc. Hopefully, the Tea Party people have changed that system to make it more equitable for the 2012 run.

Presidents' chances of reel... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Presidents' chances of reelection depends mainly on the economy - at least the public perception of the economy. The only exception was FDR in 1936, when the voters still blamed the Republicans for the Depression (not entirely without cause, either, although FDR's remedies were no improvement).

Unfortunately for us all, it is difficult to see an economic turnaround within the next 15-18 months, which is what it would take to reelect Obama. Low labor force participation, high and rising energy and food costs, and a depreciated dollar, combined with the fiscal crisis Obama's deficits have caused, mean it would take a miracle for the economy to make solid recovery in that time.

Its unfathomable what the 4... (Below threshold)

Its unfathomable what the 46% job approval could possibly be approving of?

Having no job, no food and no gas is oh so fun cause we have a black president.

dumb fucks.

"Winning The Future"<... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

"Winning The Future"


WTF does "WTF" mean, anyway?

It always depends on the op... (Below threshold)

It always depends on the opposition.

Palin? For most people, she's like nails across a blackboard. Resigning the governorship to grab gold greedily did not help.

Romney? What's he saying today? Which way is the wind blowing? The teatards mistrust him for Romneycare, the prototype for Obamacare. Everybody else just mistrusts him.

Huckabee? Unfortunately, he might just be too much of a compassionate Christian and cares about the less fortunate, so your hard right wing nutbar hates him. The secular lefties won't like him, either.

Pawlenty? A bit like Romney, but blander.

Daniels? He probably has the best shot, would beat Obama with a decent running mate like a moderate female, in my opinion. Sounds like Truman.

Gary Johnson? Anti-war, anti-police state, he could get a lot of people on his side from both parties. Warmongers and fascists of the Wizbang type won't like him. He's smart and does not pander, so he has no chance of winning the nomination, but could win a general election.

I have always maintained th... (Below threshold)
Sky Captain:

I have always maintained the moniker of Obama being the "FIRST BLCK PRESIDENT!!1!!" is overrated and inaccurate.
It's overrated because it runs afoul of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.
It's inaccurate because he is NOT black. His background is Hawaii/Indonesia/Chicago. He mother was white. His father was Kenyan Arabic.

You want a black President? Hermain Cain.
He'd be a damn sight better than the half-breed we have now.

Sam'Simple logic -... (Below threshold)
retired military:


'Simple logic - McCain mirrored the views of the majority of GOP primary voters"

I dont know what you were smoking in 2008 but it has to be illegal.

Why do you think Palin was chosen by McCain? To try to solidify the base which despised.

Go back to 2008 posts on this boards and others that were around then and you will see the same phrase over and over again maybe phrased a bit differently but along the lines of

"Holding my nose because McCain is only slightly better than Obama"

I, for one, can't wait for ... (Below threshold)

I, for one, can't wait for DJs "analysis" of the polls. Always good for a guffaw.

From where I stand right no... (Below threshold)
James H:

From where I stand right now, 2012 looks to be a repeat of 1996 or 2004 -- an incumbent president well-liked in his own party, but hated by the other party, but who nevertheless commands enough popularity that he can be re-elected over a challenger with mediocre appeal.

James HThat is exa... (Below threshold)
retired military:

James H

That is exactly what we will get too if Romneycare or Huckabee is our nominee.

"...McCain did not mirror t... (Below threshold)

"...McCain did not mirror the views of the majority of the GOP primary voters, who were very conservative, while McCain was and is still considered a RINO."

Typical conservative elite view. Most GOP voters don't even know what RINO means, it is a term used by the pundits and bloggers.

""Holding my nose because McCain is only slightly better than Obama""

Once again, this site is the fringe, not at all like the GOP base voters. Go to suburbs and small towns and villages to find the GOP base, not blogging and commenting on right-wing sites.

"Once again, this site is t... (Below threshold)

"Once again, this site is the fringe, not at all like the GOP base voters. Go to suburbs and small towns and villages to find the GOP base, not blogging and commenting on right-wing sites."

Oh...Sam really...I think not so much.

Church Point , La.

Honestly, RM, I don't think... (Below threshold)
James H:

Honestly, RM, I don't think that of the Republicans currently touted for the nomination, only Haley Barbour could potentially win both the nomination and the general election.

#25Where is it that ... (Below threshold)

Where is it that you think that we live?

Wow I garbled at 27. I mea... (Below threshold)
James H:

Wow I garbled at 27. I meant that I think only Haley Barbour of the current bunch could win both the nomination and the general election. The rest lack name recognition, a natural base within the GOP's factions, backing from the GOP establishment, and/or general-election appeal.

Sarah Palin, for example, has massive name recognition and a strong base with the Tea Party, but the GOP establishment seems nervous about her, and she has poor popularity among the electorate at large.

Romney, meanwhile, could probably count on support from the GOP establishment, but I don't see him appealing to any particular GOP faction ... and if he won the nomination, I don't see him matching Obama's charisma.

JamesPerhaps Palin... (Below threshold)
retired military:


Perhaps Palin as a VP candidate with someone like Romney or Huckabee (cough gag) at the top but it would be like McCain in 2008 and jsut as bad. The only thing is President Hope and Changey will most likely have to take Hillary as VP to be assured of winning.

I have stated for over a year now that Hillary will be on the ticket this time (most likely as VP). Without her Obama will have a VERY rough time of winning unless we throw Romney or Huckabee at him in which case it is 50 - 50 . and we know how 50-50 races go with the ACORN Franken crowd.

Sarah Palin, for example... (Below threshold)

Sarah Palin, for example, has massive name recognition and a strong base with the Tea Party, but the GOP establishment seems nervous about her, and she has poor popularity among the electorate at large.

She has poor popularity with the pundits and media. That's not quite the same thing as the electorate at large. I've studied her background and what she's actually accomplished - I'd feel comfortable with her as President. (Except when she's speaking - her voice does kind of grate after a while.) She's got a sharp mind and she gets things done.

We could do a lot worse. (And have - and probably will again.)

Please, not McCain again. ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Please, not McCain again. If I have to hear "my friends" one more time, I'm going to go insane.

But seriously ...

I should make one thing clear: I've been dismissive of Palin in the past, but I respect what she's been able to do in the past two years. She has charisma, and she's very, very adroit at manipulating the media. Her public views are also in line with the Tea Party faction.

I think of her as a "political celebrity" right now mainly because I can't decide whether she's actually thinking about running for president in 2012 or is taking advantage of the speculation to boost her own personal media profile. Again, nothing wrong with her doing that. It's actually very smart for her to keep ambiguity around the question as long as possible, particularly if she hasn't fully made up her own mind yet.

But I don't see Palin working out well in the general election, even if she's number two on the ticket. In general-electorate polls, she still has very high unfavorable ratings.

As far as the Democrats, I don't see Hillary as a VP candidate. From what I've read of the Obama administration, Biden's carved himself a nice spot on policy and a good working relationship with Obama. I don't see that being thrown away.

JamesIt wouldnt be... (Below threshold)
retired military:


It wouldnt be out of wanting to get rid of Biden but out of nescessity to try to get reelected.

The economy is not going to get much better. Gas prices will hit $5 a gallon and Obama will have a tough fight on his hands against Huckabee or Romney. Throw someone in there at VP that excites the conservative base, especially a woman and Obama will be in sheer panic mode.

I would gladly see the AZ gov in VP slot.

GOP VP slot is going to be ... (Below threshold)
James H:

GOP VP slot is going to be interesting. If I were a betting man, I'd pick Christie for the post. From what I've read, he has some serious cred with right-leaning voters thanks to his bulldog style and taking on the unions. But some of his social-issues positions, while poison to the right, would make him attractive to independent voters.

As for the AZ gov ... tough call. I think Brewer could certainly get plenty of support from the conservative wing of the Republican Party, but what would she bring to the general election? If Republicans put her up for VP, they're basically writing off the Hispanic vote.

JamesLast I heard ... (Below threshold)
retired military:


Last I heard the hispanic vote (those hispanics that have gone through the process and EARNED the right to vote) are unhappy with the illegal situation as well.

Besides who has a bigger faction - Women or Hispanic?






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