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August 04, 2011

Is Obama Doomed?
And: Will He Bother Even Running?

I've been peddling this crazy semi-prediction for a year and a half. I've mentioned it on the blog.

If Obama looks doomed a year out from the election, will he simply decline to run?

Roger Simon asks if he should.

Obama seems to be acknowledging his failure thusfar when he adds a a special new caveat to his Yes We Can slogan:

"It's been a long, tough journey. But we have made some incredible strides together. Yes, we have. But the thing that we all ought to remember is that as much as good as we have done, precisely because the challenges were so daunting, precisely because we we were inheriting so many challenges, that we're not even halfway there yet. When I said 'change we can believe in' I didn't say 'change we can believe in tomorrow.' Not change we can believe in next week. We knew this was going to take time because we've got this big, messy, tough democracy," President Obama said at a campaign fundraiser in Chicago on Wednesday night.

No, he didn't say "tomorrow" or "next week." However, hedid actually provide a specific time frame. In 2009, he said: "if I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition."

We're now six months out from "three years." And what does "done" mean? Done seems to mean "economy fully recovered and growing."

I think "done" will have to be redefined as "barely begun" for him to have any chance.

Should he decline to run again? Even if he believes in the Leftist Dream, he has to begin to realize another leftist, without his track record of demonstrable failure, would have a better chance of keeping the dream alive.

The Chattering Classes have a heard mentality. While three months ago they were airily predicting Obama almost could not lose, they are now reversing themselves. This latest article from Politico is one of the most forward-leaning of its type so far, virtually predicting that Obama is doomed.

The consensus has been that for all his problems, Obama is so skilled a politician — and the eventual GOP nominee so flawed or hapless — that he’d most likely be reelected.

Don’t buy into it.

This breezy certitude fails to reckon with how weak his fundamentals are a year out from the general election. Gallup pegs his approval rating at a discouraging 42 percent, with his standing among independents falling 9 points in four weeks.

His economic stats are even worse. The nation has 2.5 million fewer jobs today than the day Obama took office, a fact you’re sure to hear the Republicans repeat. Consumer confidence is scraping levels not seen since March 2009.

Where’s the bright spot? Hard to see. Obama has few, if any, domestic achievements that enjoy broad public support. No one assumes employment, growth or housing prices to pick up much, if at all — something Obama is essentially powerless to change. And the political environment and electoral map are significantly tougher than in 2008, especially in true up-for-grabs states.

“The historical precedents of what happens to incumbent presidents in these economic circumstances are not positive or encouraging,” said Geoff Garin, a top Democratic pollster. “There has been a false sense of confidence among a lot of Democratic activists.”

Obama advisers acknowledge the challenges posed by the economy but argue that voters will like his rescue of the auto industry, signing of Wall Street reform, championing of new restrictions on credit-card issuers, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” investments in clean energy and victory on insurance protection for people with pre-existing conditions.

OMG, he's going to run on the auto bailouts and Don't Ask, Don't Tell being repealed?

Is that the best you've got? Seriously?

That's a long piece from Politico, and worth reading in full (just for entertainment and schadenboners). Like coaches say, you're never as good as it looks like you are when you win, and you're never as bad as it looks like when you're losing.

But Obama has six to nine months to get us out of this hole. That's it. And if the double-dip comes -- forget it. That will take us deep into 2012.

One area Politico discusses (apart from the obvious ones -- the horrific economy, the $7 trillion in new debt he'll have added) is Obama's weak legislative legacy.

I don't think this stuff drives elections much in the first place. But it is notable that while Obama's stewardship of the economy gets low marks, his legislative accomplishments -- much easier things to do, given his party controlled Congress for two years -- are also unpopular.

A big hurdle for the president is the unpopularity of the very policies that his team thought would be big accomplishments in the first term.

Obama delivered on his promise to help prevent an economic collapse early on, help save the auto industry, crack down on Wall Street and then enact the most sweeping expansion of government-supported health care coverage since the 1960s. It’s not clear he’s getting much of a political boost for any of it.

A top Democratic strategist who is close to the White House said that Obama’s first-term record “is going to be, on balance, probably a liability” for his reelection, partly “because of the failure to sell and explain the things that they were doing.”

Ah. That again. Obama, the alleged great communicator, just hasn't "sold" these wonderful things properly.

“I believe history will judge what they did to be correct,” the strategist said. “But the failure to communicate why they were doing it has meant that there is such confusion. … It’s ground he’s going to have to make up, rather than things he’s going to be able to run on.”

Polls show his economic policy, the health care law and the auto bailout get positive reviews from fewer than half of voters. Hard to see how that changes.

I suppose there is some room for liberal hope in the idea that Obama is such a great orator. He will fill people with gauzy good feelings as he did in 2008.

But is that even true? Was he a good orator, ever? Is he even above average?

Matthew Continenti doesn't think so.

Barack Obama has a communications problem. His reputation for eloquence and argument is highly exaggerated​—​at best. Speech after speech, appearance after appearance, the president has failed to persuade the undecided that his views are correct, much less win over opponents. You can blame partisan polarization, the institutional limitations of the presidency, the diversity of new media, whatever. The truth is, the more Obama talks, the worse he performs.


The classic example of the president’s failure to sway public opinion remains health care. The Washington Post reports that Obama has delivered 58 speeches on the topic since he became president. An obvious case of diminishing returns: According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Americans oppose the president’s health care overhaul 51 percent to 38 percent.

Now there is one card left to play, of course. Racism.

Oh I don't think that will fly. At all. I think it will be seen as what it is, an embarrassing demonstration of incompetent excuse-making for previous incompetence.

Still, some on the left are giving it a go.

Barack Obama's difficulties are the result of racism: It has been a frequently recurring theme ever since he emerged as a serious presidential candidate. Obama himself has raised it occasionally, though not often, but his supporters fall back on it all the time--including now.

Here's DeWayne Wickham in yesterday's USA Today: "This total lack of respect is downright contemptible--if not unpatriotic. Such contempt, I'm convinced, is rooted in something other than political differences. . . . The presence of Jim Crow, Jr.--a more subtle form of racism--is there."

What prompts these accusations of racism? In Wickham's words, Speaker John Boehner "contemptuously waited more than half a day to return a call from the president," and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor complained to reporters that Obama cut short a meeting, "as though the president needs his permission to end a White House gathering." In reference to the Cantor spat, Wickham writes:

That encounter might have reminded Obama of the open letter Frederick Douglass, a runaway slave and abolitionist who became one of this nation's first black diplomats, wrote to his slave master.

It would be "a privilege" to show you "how mankind ought to treat each other," Douglass told the man who had badly mistreated him. "I am your fellow man, but not your slave.

This is overwrought to the point of absurdity.


For the purpose of argument, let's stipulate that the assertion is true: that racism is the reason Barack Obama is unable to govern effectively. What are the implications?


The trouble with this for the president's supporters is that one cannot assert Obama is unable to govern effectively because of racism without conceding that he is unable to govern effectively. To put it mildly, that is not a strong argument in favor of re-electing him.

It's all so absurd -- only racists would vote against a president who's had a 9% unemployment rate throughout most of his term! -- and yet, it's among their declining bullet-points in the case for Barack Obama.

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posted by Ace at 05:30 PM

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