May 24, 2012

Are Democrats Throwing In The Towel On Obama?

Never underestimate your opponent, that's Winning 101 stuff. Looking at the 2012 presidential election and a few recent trends it's tempting to wonder if Democrats, many Democrats, are throwing in the towel on Obama. But in the spirit of not underestimating them, you have to pause and ask yourself if it's an act of playing possum, or whether they really are trying to cast the president aside and focus on keeping the Senate and perhaps winning back Congress.

Conservatives shouldn't decide to coast based on these developments because the perceived advantage could disappear quickly.


It started with the low levels of donations that the president's re-election bid has been drawing in, at least relatively speaking;

Here’s a scary thought for Democrats: It’s entirely possible that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee will outraise President Obama and the Democratic National Committee in the seven-month sprint to the general election.

In April, the first month in which Romney was untethered by concerns about the primary fight and in which he and the RNC linked up efforts, their combined haul was just north of $40 million — almost the exact amount the president and the DNC gathered in that time frame.

“It’s becoming very clear the president’s opponents are very intent on funding a candidate, regardless of how flawed he is, to win in November,” said Jonathan Mantz, who served as the finance director for then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. “So when you look at the April filing for Romney and then add his super-PAC fundraising to date, Obama’s campaign must maintain if not step up their fundraising pace.”

What’s abundantly clear is that Obama won’t have the massive fundraising gap over Romney that he enjoyed in the 2008 contest against Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
If the money people are staying out that's a really bad sign for Obama's re-election bid, but it's not the only sign that Democrats may be throwing in the towel on his presidency.  From Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick to Newark mayor and rising Democratic star Cory Booker, Democrats suddenly started piling on about the legitimacy of Team Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney regarding Bain Capital.  Democrats it seems, aren't really all that comfortable with that line of attack.  That is truly a remarkable development.  It's been speculated that perhaps it's the beginning of a rift between centrist Democrats (of which few remain) and the progressive liberal wing of the party.  However the important underlying notion is that members of the president's own party aren't buying or comfortable with the spin;
Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s off-message criticism of the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s background at Bain Capital gave the campaign an untimely, unwanted headache this week. But more significantly, it exposed a tension that’s developing between the Democratic Party’s centrist wing and its more-outspoken liberal base—one that threatens to fester more openly if President Obama fails to win a second term.

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. Former White House Chief of Staff William Daley, who tried to steer the Obama administration in a more centrist direction, is the subject of particular derision. Discussion of entitlement reforms, at the heart of the GOP governing agenda, is a nonstarter. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats are now nearly extinct on Capitol Hill.

Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail.

“There are not a lot of moderates left in the Democratic Party, and Cory is one of the few of them left,” said former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis, an early Obama ally who has become increasingly estranged from the party. “I would like to think Cory speaks for a lot of voters in the Democratic Party, but sadly he doesn’t speak for a lot of Democratic operatives within the party. This isn’t Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party anymore.”
To recap, no donation advantage because it seems, donors have cooled off or maxed out on Obama, Democrats not happy with the Bain attacks and add to that the surprisingly poor showing of the president in uncontested, or not seriously contested Democratic primaries and it amounts to "San Francisco, we have a problem".
Tuesday night, President Obama continued his streak of poor primary performances in culturally Southern states. He received 58.4 percent of the vote in the Arkansas Democratic primary against token opposition, and 57.9 percent of the vote in the Kentucky primary against no opposition (42.1 percent of the vote went to "uncommitted"). In the latter state's Harlan County, in the heart of coal country, Obama received 26.2 percent of the vote.

This comes on the heels of losing 40.6 percent of the vote in West Virginia to a Texas prison inmate, 21 percent of the vote to “uncommitted” in North Carolina, 24 percent of the vote to token opposition in Louisiana, 19 percent of the vote to “uncommitted” in Alabama, and 43 percent of the vote to various candidates in Oklahoma.
Combine these factors and it starts to look like Democrats are not as enamored with the president as the were in 2008. Some have fled entirely and some have just not been engaged (think youth voters).  It seems too good to be true for Republicans.  I'm inclined to believe it probably is too good to be true.  These are issues that real for Democrats but they may be of a temporary nature.  Fundraising numbers for example, can change over time - they may ramp up for Democrats as a result of a perceived competitive disadvantage.

Secondly as Democrats go off the reservation, as was the case with Cory Booker, they are quickly coerced to walk back their comments.  That inhibits others from publicly disagreeing with their leader, which means it is less likely, not more likely that you'll see a snowball effect of disagreement.  The dissenters will simply shut up and while they may not vote, they won't squabble publicly.  In fact, they may still hold their noses and vote for Obama, just as many conservatives will do with Mitt Romney.  In the end, the dissent issue is likely to fade over time as well.

Lastly the primary performances are a symptom of the problem and not the root cause of the problem.  It almost speaks to the other issues.  What it boils down to is that Independent voters and centrist Democrats  are not all that happy with the overt liberalism of the president. What the election will boil down to if that is the case, is how many of them switch their vote to Romney or just stay home on election day.  And I would not rule out the sneaky operative thought.  Democrats stepping out of line and criticizing the president in not small numbers, all of a sudden and on the same issue, seems too convenient for the GOP by half.  Perhaps it is a coordinated misdirection play. The Democrats could be casting aside Obama to save the Senate.  They could be trying to trick the Republicans somehow, or these issues could be temporal in nature.  In any case, this is no time for conservatives to start getting cocky.

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