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Obama's Solid Base

Despite the dismal economy and this Administration’s failure to inaugurate the progressive utopia its backers were hoping for, most liberals still support Obama and will vote accordingly. According to the Washington Post:

Although African Americans remain the base group most broadly supportive of Obama, liberals and Democrats are very much in his camp as well. In Gallup’s most recent data, Obama’s job approval rating stood at 78 percent among Democrats and 70 percent among liberals.

Those numbers are similar to where President Bill Clinton stood in November 1995, when 78 percent of Democrats in Gallup polling approved of the job he was doing. (Bush had the support of 87 percent of Republicans in the fall of 2003, but those numbers were the result of the boosts he received from the start of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Readers should not underestimate Obama; he will be a formidable candidate despite his policy problems, and there can be little doubt that he will lead a united party into a serious reelection campaign. His challengers so far seem weak, and he also has the unwavering support of African Americans, which may well prove crucial in 2012 as it did in 2008:

In Gallup’s latest weekly tracking polling, Obama’s job approval rating stands at 43 percent among the general public but is nearly double that — 84 percent —among African Americans. In the November NBC-WSJ poll, Obama’s approval rating among black voters stood at a stratospheric 91 percent.

Given that African Americans made up 13 percent of the overall electorate in 2008 — and, hence, a much larger chunk of the Democratic base vote — Obama’s continued support among that key demographic makes any sort of widespread base erosion in 2012 unlikely.

Even a weak economy may not hurt the President as much as some expect, especially if the blame for the downturn can be laid at Europe’s door.  If voters start to blame their economic woes on the political dysfunction across the ocean instead of policy problems at home, Obama will have a far easier time winning reelection.

Other foreign issues could break the President’s way as well.  Neutralizing the Iranian nuclear program, for example, with a well timed military strike would anger some people in the base but would overall make this President hard to beat.  Killing Osama and keeping the mullahs from getting their fingers on the nuclear trigger would give the President some serious national street cred that the GOP would be hard put to counter.

With the election still almost a year away and the GOP nomination still up for grabs, it is much too early to for Republicans to start measuring the Oval Office for drapes.  An administration that tilts left at home and right abroad could be hard to beat.

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  • Jim.

    If blame for the downturn can be placed on Europe’s collapse, why in the world would that help the party of Eurosocialist policy?

    I refuse to believe Americans can’t follow the narrative, “Europe is a disaster, so let’s avoid Obama’s Eurosocialism like the plague”.

  • ms

    Obama’s numbers are way down among independents, so while he may still rate well with his base, the independants are more likely to make the difference. I don’t think anyone is expecting a cake walk, especially given the contentious republican primary, but it’s going to be pretty easy to play up negatives on Obama.

  • Gene

    I’m with Jim, whose comments echo the analogy of Obama with Gorbachev, a leader desperately trying to save a system that can no longer stand on its own feet.

    I, for one, will take every opportunity to remind all of my Europhile friends and relatives that their preferred social model is crumbling. And the Republicans will do the same in the general election.

  • Anthony

    WRM, demographics and turnout are two very important factors to consider vis-a-vis 2012 Presidential election. Both Ronald Brownstein – National Journal – and Ruy Teixeira – Center for American Progress – argue that demographic change and electorate share work to Obama’s favor despite poll numbers (although expect a very close race). Some conclude that 2012 election may be showdown between demographics and economics – we shall see what other variables come to play….

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Obama is toast, when a president of the US is dependent on finding scapegoats, and blames Bush, or Europe, or ATMs, or Lazy Americans, or the TEA Party, or people who cling to their guns and bible, or the Republicans, or anything else rather than excepting that the buck stops with him, he is finished. Only a miracle can save him, such as 8% growth in 2012, 6% unemployment, American energy independence, a dead girl or live boy on the other side, and I don’t see any of those as remotely possible.
    So what if the leftists still support him was there ever any possibility that they wouldn’t? Elections are about winning the middle, convincing the middle that you will provide better leadership than the other guy. And when you are a big loser, who has failed to make things better and arguably has made things worse, the other guy just has to not be you to win.
    Obama and the Democrats have failed miserably, The Stimulus, 9% unemployment, Bailouts, the Vile Criminal Stench of Occupy Wall Street vs. the Law abiding and Fresh smelling TEA Party, Crony Capitalism, Cap and Trade, Obamacare, Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Eric Holder, Debt downgrade, Failed Super Committee, Gulf Oil spill, Keystone Pipeline, Damaged foreign relations with our allies like Israel, Black Panther voter intimidation, Union favoritism, Blatant Racism like the Beer Summit, I can go on but I’m sure the Republicans will be bringing a more complete list before Nov 2012.
    The Democrat Rats are begining to abandon ship, Barney Frank will not run, and he will be followed by many others.

  • Derek Footer

    I believe the most precise criticism of your sense that foreign events could appreciably increase Obama’s reelection possibilities was coined by James Carville: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

    P.S. – The “stupid” is of course not directed at you personally, professor.

  • Mike M.

    Most of the analyses I have read from the political experts say pretty much the same thing: the election is virtually certain to come down to seven or eight key swing states; the others are essentially already decided.

    Personally, I find the notion a little depressing that the election outcome is already predetermined in 42 or 43 states nearly a year out. It speaks to how deeply, and apparently permanently, divided and stratified our nation has become. I believe this doesn’t bode well at all for the future; as a wise man once said, a nation that is divided against itself cannot stand.

  • Ralph

    While you may prove to be correct I see to reason to believe that he will be a “formidable candidate.” I’ve never seen him run in a campaign that involved real challenge. He won the Presidency after the media had soured the public on how terrible Bush and the Republicans were. On top of that they were totally “in the tank” for him even more than ever. He was allowed to run as a “moderate, and centrist” who would be post-partisan, when all of his prior record contra-indicated that claim. In addition, McCain did everything possible to let him win, and still he only got what? 53% of the vote?

    Since he’s been in office it has become obvious to many people that he is anything but a centrist. Had he lost only 3-4% of those who supported him last time, he’d not have been elected. I have trouble believing that he hasn’t alienated far more than that.

    Of course, he’ll still have the black and liberal vote, but they really can’t go for him any more than they did in 2008.

    IF the Republicans elect a candidate who’s willing to fight, we’ll finally get to see if Obama can handle a tough campaign or not.

  • Toni

    Well, of course, the liberal base is no more likely to vote GOP than the conservative base is to vote Democratic. But there is SO much wrong with this analysis!

    “…in the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Obama takes 44 percent in a three-way race with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) running as an independent…”

    This is good news only if Romney wins the GOP nomination AND Paul runs as an independent AND the electorate votes in 2012 exactly as a single Nov. 2011 poll said they would. How likely are all three conditions likely to be met?

    In the real world, Rasmussen — which surveys likely voters, not a general sample — finds that a generic GOP candidate beats Obama by 6%.

    The WaPo piece also quotes Gallup’s finding that 84% of blacks approve of Obama’s job performance. That’s down quite a bit from the 96% of blacks who voted for him.

    “…in November 1995, when 78 percent of Democrats in Gallup polling approved of the job he [Clinton] was doing.”

    Yet Clinton — running against Ross Perot as well as Bob Dole — got merely 49% of the total vote. That’s good news?

    “(Bush had the support of 87 percent of Republicans in the fall of 2003, but those numbers were the result of the boosts he received from the start of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.)”

    What relevance does this have to the approval ratings of Clinton and Obama among Democrats??? It’s a nonsensical observation.

    Obama’s “latest job approval rating in Gallup’s tracking survey is at 50 percent among 18-to-29-year-olds and Hispanics, both significant drop-offs from the 66 percent and 67 percent, respectively, he won among those two groups in the 2008 election.”

    So is the author dropping Hispanics and the young from the Democratic base category? Well, no. He goes on to claim that “an election will force members of his base to choose between the incumbent and a Republican with whom they agree on very little.”

    That is, the author merely *assumes* that Hispanics and the young will agree the Republican nominee on very little. How does he know???

    The opposite argument is at least as likely. In 2008, Obama made promises that sounded good. Then he had to govern, and a majority of voters are unhappy with his governance. In 2012, the Republican nominee will be the one who can promise the world.

    Myself, I think this author is looking at a handful of real-life lemons and trying very, very hard to make virtual lemonade. That and five bucks will get him a cup of coffee.

  • Sapper Squid

    Thanks for the commentary Dr Meade, even though I don’t so much believe that popularity among the progressive base will count for anything. As mentioned above, this election will come down to the independents, and the recent demographic point papers swirling around the notion of Democrats foresaking the white middle class go a long way towards conceding the independent vote. I think Obama’s best chance is for Mitt Romney to be his opponent, as that will blunt the national healthcare issue and prevent that from polarizing populist opinion. Still, that’s just my $.02 from my limited perspective, and only time will tell. I’m an independent, so maybe I’m just biased ;)Regards – Joe

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