Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Cart Before the Horse

Mike Allen reports for Politico that the White House is already making plans for the 2012 presidential campaign.

Things seem to be in an embryonic stage right now. Democratic sources tell Allen "[t]he planning for now consists entirely of private conversations, with Obama aides at all levels indulging occasionally in closed-door 2012 discussions while focusing ferociously on the midterm elections and health care reform." Allen says one official contends "[t]he gathering storm is the 2010 elections," but the president "has given every sign of planning to run again and wants the next campaign to resemble the highly successful 2008 effort."

I think it's going to be hard to recapture that 2008 feeling. Seems to me, if the president is still obsessing about health care reform, he hasn't gotten the message about the urgent need for job creation — lip service to the contrary. And that is going to have an effect on his re–election plans.

Granted, Obama's lowest approval rating (46%) is higher than the lowest such rating recorded by any of his previous eight predecessors, but it took most of them longer to fall to that level. Obama has been in office for 13 months. There are millions of Americans who have been jobless longer than that. And, I would venture to add, many, if not most, of them got good performance assessments.

The Obama campaign staffers aren't printing up bumper stickers or campaign brochures yet, but, if they were, I wonder what Obama would put in his brochure as a justification for a second term. Health care reform? Hasn't been achieved yet, and the prospects seem more remote with each passing day. A Supreme Court nomination? Obama's nominee drew a lot of criticism, but, in the end, opposition to her probably would have been seen as racist or sexist so she was confirmed in spite of any reservations some of the senators may have had.

And there hasn't been any improvement in the unemployment numbers to crow about. In January 2009, when Obama took office, unemployment was at 8.5%. One year later, it is 10.6%.

The way Obama has re–fixated on health care reform suggests to me he only plans to mention unemployment on those occasions when the monthly jobs report shows an aberration — a one–time drop (by a fraction of a percentage point) in the unemployment rate that will, undoubtedly, be erased a month later. But those in power will seize on it as proof that their "policies" are making a difference — when, in reality, they are not.

It has been said by many Democrats, including Bill Clinton, that 2010 will not be as disastrous for the Democrats as 1994 was. They got an early warning, they say, with the jolt they got from the loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

If that is true, they don't seem to be acting on it, which makes me doubt that it is as valuable as an early warning as Clinton and others say it is. After all, if your smoke alarm goes off when there is only the slightest hint of smoke in the air and you do nothing to prevent the destruction that will result, how much benefit did you gain from the advance knowledge that a fire was coming?
  • In Pennsylvania, Shashank Bengali of McClatchy Newspapers reports that Pennsylvania, a state that voted decisively for Obama in 2008, is not entirely in his corner now. And Arlen Specter, the former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party (helping the Democrats achieve a short–lived filibuster–proof majority in the Senate), appears to have some obstacles to overcome in his bid for another term.

  • The Rothenberg Political Report has more bad news for Democrats. California Sen. Barbara Boxer's "poll numbers are less than intimidating," according to the Report, so today it moved Boxer's bid for another term from "Currently Safe" to "Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party."

    Appears the Report will be keeping an eye on the race. Before the special election in Massachusetts, the notion that Boxer might be denied another term might have been unthinkable. But, as the Report says, "The contest is worth watching because of the building GOP wave."

    Who'da thought the Democrats might have to fight to keep a Senate seat in California? Then again, who would have thought unemployment in California would exceed 12%?

  • Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball reports that, if the midterm elections were held today, Republicans would gain seven seats in the Senate and 27 in the House. They would also pick up six governor's offices.
A couple of points here.
  1. On the positive side, it is still February. There is a lot of time between now and November. But there isn't so much time that the Democrats can afford to squander any of it.

  2. On the negative side, that is how things look after one year of Obama, a year that was spent largely in a futile attempt to pass health care reform. How will things look after nearly two years with Obama at the helm?
That is a big piece of the puzzle. It will be a huge factor in 2012.

And that is what should have Obama's undivided attention this year.

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