Monday, November 26, 2012

What the Political Gurus Kept Telling Us

 By Alan Caruba

Throughout the year leading up to the November elections, I had a friend who called regularly for reassurance that whoever the Republicans nominated would defeat Obama. I began to keep a file of what the political commentators had to say on the subject. Suffice to say, I ended up convinced that Romney could not lose.

An article by Mark Knoller, CBS News White House correspondent, on December 31, 2010 is a good place to start. “No numbers in the year just ending are more consequential for President Obama than the results of the midterm elections. His party lost seats in the Senate and its majority in the House.” Like many, I concluded that Obama’s reversal of fortune would be reflected in 2012.

By April 2011, however, a Wall Street Journal article noting that Mitt Romney was the early front-runner for the Republican nomination reported that “Some 43% of 1,000 adults polled said they would probably vote for Mr. Obama, versus 39% who said they would likely vote Republican, a five-point lead that is unchanged from February.” I should have paid more attention, but didn’t. I would have voted for the GOP candidate if he was Charlie Sheen.

I paid close attention to Karl Rove’s weekly commentaries in The Wall Street Journal. This is the man George W. Bush called “the architect”, crediting him for his reelection. In late June he wrote, “President Barack Obama is likely to be defeated in 2012…The reason is that he faces four serious threats. The economy is very weak and unlikely to experience a robust recovery by Election Day. Key voter groups have soured on him. He’s defending unpopular policies. And he’s made bad strategic decisions.”

A week later Rove was giving advice to the GOP on how to avoid losing the election, noting that many who voted for Republicans in the midterms “still like Mr. Obama personally.” He advised the GOP nominee to avoid questioning Obama’s “motives, patriotism, or character.” For many Republicans, however, that was the central issue. Rove also warned that “Republicans also must not confuse the tea party movement with the larger, more important tea party sentiment.”

By July 2011, Charles Krauthammer was challenging Obama to “Give us one single structural change in entitlements.” Adding that Obama offered nothing regarding what is now called “the fiscal cliff”. Krauthammer lamented that “The Republicans are being totally outmaneuvered” on issues regarding the economy and tax reform. He was right.

That same month, in the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar said “The race for president isn’t a national contest. It’s a state-by-state battle to cobble an electoral vote majority” noting that polls regarding the president’s popularity did not bode well for him. “In every reputable battleground state poll conducted over the past month, Obama’s support is weak.” Oh, yeah?

By August 2011, Newsmax was reporting that “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters the nation’s largest labor federation will scale back their involvement with the Democratic Party in advance of the 2012.” Oh, wow, I thought. Is labor deserting Obama? Turns out they weren’t. They were knocking on doors, giving out Obama campaign literature, registering voters, going into neighborhoods—black and Hispanic—that Republicans avoid.
 

In early November 2011, prior to the Iowa caucuses, Rove wrote “Obama’s prospects look perilous” adding that no president has won re-election since 1989 when people told pollsters that the nation was on the wrong track and based on a Gallup poll “no president has been re-elected a year after having a job-approval rating as low as Mr. Obama’s today—43%--since Gallup began asking the question in 1945.”

The election was just a year away. January 2012 began with a Washington Times news article noting that “Congress ended its least-productive year in modern history after passing 80 bills—fewer than during any session since year-end records began being kept in 1947.” Did it matter to voters? Apparently not.

In February 2012 Wall Street Journal columnist, Daniel Henniger, noticed something else and wrote about it in “Obama’s Maddening, Winning Speech.” “Mr. Obama may not know much about the private economy, but he knows a lot about the uses of human anxiety. Proposing to replace his own bad economy with a virtual substitute ‘built to last’ allows Mr. Obama to place himself outside the White House and on the street making common cause with the genuine economic anxieties of the American people.” Perceptively, he wrote, “If we know nothing else about Barack Obama it is that he can play ‘hope’ like a Stradivarius.”

In a June 2 commentary, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd noted that “On Friday, an ugly job market report led to the stock market’s worst day of the year”, but that Obama seemed to have dodged that bullet by telling a crowd in Golden Valley, Minnesota, “our economy is still facing some serious headwinds.” By that time, Romney was hammering away at his campaign theme of jobs, jobs, jobs.

By August 8, Karl Rove was telling readers that “Wednesday’s Gallup poll had President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney essentially tied, with Mr. Obama at 47% and Mr. Romney at 48%. That’s good for the challenger…historically, undecided voters tend to break late for the challenger.” In September Rove said that “youthful enthusiasm for Mr. Obama has waned. In October 2008, 78% of voters 18-29 told Gallup they would definitely vote that year. Now it’s 58%.” The youth vote went to Obama. So did single women, blacks and Hispanics.

In September, Dick Morris, former President Clinton’s political guru, was telling people “Republicans are getting depressed under an avalanche of polling suggesting that an Obama victory is in the offing. They, in fact, suggest no such thing!” Like Rove, he pointed out that “the undecided vote always goes against the incumbent.” Both were clinging to this mantra of former elections.

On November 6th, in a sharply divided nation of voters, a sufficient number reelected Barack Obama. Many Republicans, it seemed, stayed home.

Looking back, Daniel Henniger, wondered if “business experience is now a political liability.” He thought that “Mr. Obama’s passage of such a monumental social entitlement as the Affordable Care Act with zero bipartisan votes displayed muscle but was madness for our political system.”

“The Republicans’ self-inflicted wounds, however, pale against the willingness of an American president to use his office to blow up the country itself,” said Henniger. He’d been more right than wrong throughout the long campaign with its uninspiring party conventions and unremitting economic bad news.

In the end it didn’t matter to the Obama voters.

I always wondered how Franklin D. Roosevelt kept being reelected throughout the Great Depression years of the 1930s despite little success turning the economy around, but much success creating Social Security and other programs that put a few dollars in people’s pockets. When World War II began for America on December 7, 1941, the voters kept the incredibly popular president in office until he died in 1945.

There’s something to be said for popularity. It trumps competence in American politics.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

11 comments:

Rich Kozlovich said...

The fact that Karl Rove was so sure, and the fact that Dick Morris was so sure, should have been an indicator that something was wrong, since both of them seem to almost have a monopoly on being wrong. I haven’t a clue as to why these two guys are so prominent, other than they are very convincing. Kind of like ….well….con men. Oh, one more thing; Rove didn't win for Bush; the Swift Boaters did.

AB said...

All it boils down to is this: America picked a pretty cute blonde cheerleader to be IT manager instead of the computer geek. And the country is going to suffer for this choice.

Alan Caruba said...

Well put, AB!

Hugh Petersen said...

I would have voted for the GOP candidate if it was my dog!

Ron Stabb said...

I forgot to add it was racism on a grand scale.

Ronald Barbour said...

@Allen:

Like yourself I was blindsided by Obama's reelection victory [which I still maintain happened largely because of voter fraud in a number of key states] and I should have listened to the prediction of a high ranking person I know in federal government, who was steady on his prediction that Obama would win for over a year.

Since this individual seems to be in the "know" about things Obama (He likely has important contacts in D.C.) - I'm wondering if he will tell me when Obama plans to start throwing his opposition into concentration camps?

Oh! One other important prediction my "Deep Throat" has made - There will NOT be a Second U.S. Civil War. He hasn't went into details on this, but I would assume the Feds have war gamed this idea and have taken the necessary steps to see that it won't happen.

Ronald Barbour said...


Ron Stabb said...

"I forgot to add it was racism on a grand scale."

@Ron:

Yes, if you mean black racism, as 95% of the African-American vote went for Obama despite the fact a majority of his positions - such as abortion and gay marriage - are 180 degrees out of phase from their positions.

...not to mention unemployment that has hit the black community much harder than the whites...

Clearly, the black community voted for Obama largely on the basis of his skin color and not on his platform.

This is racism in all its ugly glory.

Bruce Brodt said...

Alan, while I agree with your premises, I think the main thing that re-elected this failed administration was reverse racisim. Plus, all those government dependent voters who receive their income from the Democrats is impossible to beat. We conservatives will never win again until the economy blows up and the government runs out of money, then only those willing to work to survive will take the country back. It will take serious medicine to awaken the brain dead Democrat voting bloc!

Bonnie Jones said...

Alan, I am probably a bit behind the times on this one, but have you read THE BLUEPRINT? Great education for me. Should be a must read for anyone interested in the mechanics of today's American politics. I am still very grateful for your column. Always gives me a lot to think about.

Ronald Barbour said...

@Everyone:

The final election results are in...

Obama won 60,193,076 or 50.4% popular votes to 57,468,587 or 48.1% for Romney.

Pretty close, heh?

My contention is that the Democrats could have easily stolen the votes necessary to put Obama over the top.

We do know that all the states that do not have voter I.D. were won by Obama.

But even if we accept the idea that Obama legally won the election, he hardly has a mandate for massive change to socialism, as if the 24% of the population is added to the 50% who didn't vote, Obama gets only about 25% approval.

TexasFred said...

Barack Obama didn't WIN this election, Mitt Romney and the GOP/DNC LOST this election.

If 2012 was ANY indication of what we can expect from the GOP the America is over and done for, I mean OVER, DEAD, DONE and never to be resuscitated.