A recent poll by the usually-reliable Zogby International firm shows a strong majority of Americans, 55%, thinking “It’s time for someone new” for President, creating a significant opening if the Republicans find a credible challenger. Just 72% of Democrats said President Obama “deserves to be re-elected” while only four percent of Republicans agreed. Below is an excerpt from the poll, which was conducted April 1-4, 2011:
Do you think President Obama deserves to be re-elected or do you think it is time for someone new?
Taken together, the surveys appear show an unmistakable decline in Obama’s base from 2008-2009. A New York Times/CBS poll measures the progressive trend in public opinion. Asked which programs they would cut if necessary, 55% of all voters favored cutting the military, only 21% cutting Medicare, and 13% for cutting Social Security. Only 8% of all favored cuts in education spending, and just 21% cutting aid to the unemployed and poor. Opposition to Afghanistan is running at 86% among Democrats and a signficant majority of all voters. Will Obama give voice to a progressive populism? [New York Times, January 21, 2011]
It seems unlikely. The Times describes the president’s political advisers as attempting to “recapture the middle” by the following strategy: “The president’s advisers argued that the broad coalition of supporters who gave Mr. Obama 53 percent of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes in 2008 never completely matched up with the Democratic base.” Their conclusion? “That liberals will ultimately get behind him as the best alternative.” [New York Times, April 9, 2011] Sounds like taking progressive voters for granted...
But there is no sign as yet that the base will turn out for Obama in the same numbers as 2008. Perhaps the Republican ticket will rouse them. But even if he matches the same turnout, which is in question, Obama will not be able to generate the enthusiasm, volunteers, door knocking power and small contributions as he did in 2008. Every day that he openly runs to “recapture the middle” he risks losing support on his left.
If the president appears to break his promise to withdraw from Iraq, if he plans to stay in Afghanistan and Pakistan through 2014 or beyond, the broad peace vote is likely to diminish if not wither in 2012.
To cope with defections from the African-American community, the president and White House are actively courting Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. How will he align with Latino voters in the Southwest? Or the labor work in states with Republican governors and runaway shops? Or the liberal peace vote nationally? The Congressional Progressive Caucus may be a possibility, but the terms of such an alliance for 2012 have not been seriously discussed.