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Sunday: It ain’t over until the balloons drop

Electoral caviar?

The New York Times reports that Obama is starting to make his first campaign sweeps through the country, focusing on swing states and states he carried in 2008:

Fifteen months from Election Day, Mr. Obama is gearing up his re-election effort with unemployment stuck above 9 percent, economic growth faltering, financial markets gyrating and faith in Washington depressed by the partisandebt limit fight. Now the creditworthiness of government bonds has been downgraded for the first time ever by one of the ratings agencies — a development with symbolic meaning as well as potential practical impact.

Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are below 50 percent in electoral battlegrounds like Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to recent polls there. His party’s political infrastructure has been weakened in crucial states where Republicans won statehouses last year, though the White House sees potential benefit in a reaction to the unpopular policies of new Republican governors in states like Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Despite an intensive effort by the White House since last November to recapture the political center, Mr. Obama continues to struggle to win back the support of moderate and independent voters, polls show. Having won with their help in 2008 in states where Democrats for years had not seriously competed — Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and some mountain states — Mr. Obama will now have to struggle not just to duplicate that feat but also to prevail in traditional swing states like Pennsylvania.

And just like he ran against Sarah Palin in 2008 instead of his actual Republican challenger, he’s planning to run against a Republican House in 2012:

“He has to show independents, conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans — all of those votes are still up for grabs — that he’s still a strong leader,” former Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania said in an interview.

At the same time, Mr. Obama is expected to begin a nationwide effort to warn the country of what Republican leadership, in his view, looks like, Democratic advisers say. That means the president will single out Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin — three states where Republican governors clashed with civil servants, for instance — as a warning of what could happen if a Republican takes the White House. (“Get those nurses and firefighters who lost their job on television,” one Democratic adviser said.)

In those three states and others, like Pennsylvania, where a disproportionate number of voters are older, Mr. Obama will hold his Republican rival responsible for proposals to replace Medicare with a smaller voucher system and to make Medicaid a limited block grant to the states.

But even with the advantages of incumbency — including the ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for his campaign, employ the trappings of the presidency and call on a network of allies to attack Republicans and amplify his message — he still faces a daunting environment as long as the economy remains the nation’s main preoccupation.

“Obama’s an incumbent below 50,” said Mark Penn, chief strategist for President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and for Hillary Rodham Clinton when she opposed Mr. Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination. “Don’t confuse the Republican Congressional ratings with the presidential ratings. The Republicans in Congress won’t be running against Obama.”

In other words, Obama’s campaign strategy is going to be based on fear.  The Republicans will be soooooo much worse.  Hokay, how about we get rid of Obama and vote in some left of center Democrats to the House and Senate?

We already know what to vote against.  What is it about Obama that we are supposed to be voting *for*?  And why is he spending so much time courting independents, who make up their minds based on who whispered in their ears just before they go to the voting booth, and conservative Democrats, who socially are indistinguishable from Republicans?

Stuart Zechman went off on the musings of a Senior White House official the other day.  According to the unnamed official (Plouffe?), Americans have ALWAYS distrusted government.  The New Deal was an aberration.  Obama’s not in the White House to reinforce the New Deal.  He’s there to provide you with opportunities.  What the f%&* does that mean?  It’s much easier to become an entrepreneur when you know that you won’t be on the street as an elderly homeless beggar if your big idea fails.  And what about Germany?  They have a nice solid safety net, they protect their industrial and research infrastructure.  That doesn’t seem to have harmed their opportunities.

Does Obama really think he can lie to independents and conservative Democrats and tell them that a Republican government is going to take away their New Deal programs at the same time he is talking to his “creative class” about all of the unique opportunities they will have when all that New Deal stuff is gone?  That sounds like generational warfare to me.  And what about the rest of us well educated New Deal Democrats in Exile who have seen our quality of living decline in the last three years and who now fit into the lower middle class?  We’re going to be relying on those social safety net programs even more now.  That’s what happens when you focus on everything but unemployment.  I don’t want more opportunities to lose my shirt.  I want a job where I can work my butt off doing the things I love to do.  It isn’t my goal in life to become filthy rich and not everyone should be focussing all of their attention on that goal.  If it happens through hard work and dedication, great.  If it doesn’t and I manage to contribute something to society anyway, that’s fine too.  Besides, I have seen what the money driven persons are capable of and I don’t want any part of that back stabbing, underhanded, unethical, selfish lifestyle.  Really.  We don’t all aspire to be cutthroat businessmen.  Some of us just want to work in a lab and do the best work we can.

But anyway, it’s still early.  The convention is 15 months away.  Oh, sure, the DNC can say they’re sticking with Obama now, but that doesn’t mean that the political environment won’t be very different in 2012.  And those of you who keep telling yourselves and us that there will be no primary challenger should ask yourselves:

  • Does Obama represent the best that the Democrats can put forward as president?
  • Is the party suggesting that their bench is so shallow that there is no other politician who could do a better job and represent the principles of the party better than Obama?
  • Or is the leadership saying that they have tailored their preferences so narrowly that only Obama is capable of fulfilling them?
  • And if that is true, what makes the party think that overriding the preferences of millions of Democrats with the selection of a handful of white male Ivy League graduates with majors in philosophy or other soft liberal art is going to resonate with the electorate a second time?
  •  Is it right for the small group in the Democratic leadership to discount the legitimate economic concerns of the “old coalition”?  Seriously, isn’t that what it comes down to?  If you’re a middle aged woman, or only have a high school diploma or are working class or elderly, should you be disenfranchised because some male coterie of the Democratic party doesn’t consider you fuckable anymore?

Just asking.  I mean, this is your party.  If you’re telling the electorate that you don’t really like the guy but you feel helpless to change the ticket, well, that’s hardly a winning and empowering campaign message, is it?  “Rah-Rah-Rah!  We don’t like him either but vote for him anyway!”  Don’t think that someone from Fox isn’t going to pick up on that.

Because whether or not the party considers them at all, those voters still vote.  And this year and the next, they will be paying very close attention.  The Democrats can’t afford to ignore any of their traditional voting blocs, especially college educated women who they blew off in 2008.  We vote.  You may not think we are significant now but wait until the election gets closer and the party has done nothing to court us.  Fear isn’t going to work.  We already know what we’re going to get with Obama and it’s no more reassuring than it is with Republicans.  If the Democrats don’t want us to sit it out or join the Greens or write someone in, they’d better start paying attention.  Obama is polling under 50 now but unless the economy gets a lot better and the country regains its economic reputation, running against the Republican House will be the least of his problems.  He’ll be running against his own party.

Can we really afford 4 more years of Obama?  Think about that.  If the Republicans take the Senate and are only slightly edged out by Democrats in the House, what kind of four years would we be looking at?  What kind of coattails does Obama have?  Judging by Coakley and Corzine and the Republicans taking back the House in 2010, they’re pretty short.  If I were the Democrats, I’d be looking around for a replacement.  And forget about precedence and history.  We are in a critical period of time.  Anything can happen.  In 1968, Lyndon Johnson, the guy who gave us medicare and signed the civil rights act, bowed out after he lost a couple early primary states.  You never know.  And the biggest entitlement we need to end is the one that says that the incumbent is entitled to a second term, no matter how much of an incompetent, craven, banker’s ass kissing, ideologically-opposed-to-his-own-party’s-values he is.

It ain’t over until the balloons drop at the convention.

Addendum:  Paul Krugman tells the Obots that they were willfully blind in 2008 in his new post, Stuck in the Muddle.

The one thing I might say is that we shouldn’t really wonder what happened to Obama — he is who he always was. If you paid attention to what he actually said during the primary and the election, he was always a very conventional centrist. Progressives who flocked to his campaign basically deluded themselves, mistaking style for substance. I got huge flack for saying that at the time, but it was true, and events have borne it out.

Just to forestall the usual (or to try, anyway): no, we don’t know that Hillary would have been any better. And John Edwards turned out to be a worse person than one could have imagined. So I’m not trying to rerun the primary. I’m just pointing out that a lot of people were remarkably blind to the warning signs.

I had hoped that Obama would rise to the occasion, but he keeps not doing it. And no, I have no idea what progressives do in the near term.

Ahem, here is my reaction to the presidential candidate’s forum at YearlyKos in 2007:  Edwards was the reincarnation of PT Barnum, all emotion, buzzwords and as phony as a $3 bill (and mind you, I wen’t into that ballroom as an Edwards supporter.)  Barack Obama looked enervated and bored, sitting onstage like he was hanging out at some sidewalk Paris bistro.  He didn’t impress me as much of anything presidential or un.  He was simply taking up space and had mass.  Hillary Clinton was alert, a litte tentative and extremely well prepared.  She got over her nerves after a few weeks.

Do I think Hillary Clinton would have made a better president?  Well, I nailed the other two, didn’t I?