I have argued that President Obama's reelection strategy is playing to his weaknesses rather than any strength he might have. Current polls back me up. It is remarkable that, while the President is campaigning full time, he hasn't bothered to tell us what he plans to do with four more years. What policies will he pursue? What problems face the nation for the rest of this decade? Maybe he will get around to this, but you might think that he would give us at least a hint?
It's pretty clear that the President does not intend to sell himself. He will run as the alternative to a demonized opposition. The primary theme so far has been what the Republicans call "class warfare" and the Democrats call "inequality." Vote for Obama because the other side will favor the 1% over you guys in the 99%. How's that workin' out?
Not so well. Oddly, perhaps, Americans are much less likely now to see their society as divided into the haves and the have nots. Consider this chart from Gallup:
That is a rather dramatic turnaround in public opinion. At the risk of over interpreting it, it may be that a sense of national peril has renewed our tendency to think that we are all in this together.
Democrats generally and the Obama Campaign in particular want to talk about inequality. That's not small potatoes, but inequality is a relationship not a state of ill or well-being, let alone does it make a job or not. What do you care about more: the statistical gap between the rich and the poor, or whether you get or keep a job? Most Americans, sensibly enough, care more about the latter. Again from Gallup:
What we want from the Federal Government are policies that will promote economic growth and opportunity. We are much less concerned how much richer someone else is.
That may help to explain why the flood of fairness talk issuing from the President's campaign isn't lifting his boat. An AP poll has this, from Real Clear Politics:
Obama's approval rating on his handling of the economy overall remains stagnant: 39 percent approve and 60 percent disapprove.
We can all see that the President is talking a lot about fairness but is doing nothing about the economy. He has no policy for job growth. He isn't working with Congress to produce one. Gradual improvements in job growth may help, but only if we think that the President had something to do with them. We don't.
For the first time, the poll found that a majority of adults, 52 percent, said Obama should be voted out of office while 43 percent said he deserves another term. The numbers mark a reversal since last May, when 53 percent said Obama should be re-elected while 43 percent said he didn't deserve four more years.
Obama's overall job approval stands at a new low: 44 percent approve while 54 percent disapprove. The president's standing among independents is worse: 38 percent approve while 59 percent disapprove.
Maybe the Republican nominee will prove so unpalatable to the electorate that even this guy seems best to stick with. That's a pitiful election strategy. It is Obama's strategy. It would be better for the Democrats if it fails miserably. If the Republicans should emerge a year from January with control of the White House and Congress, they will have to govern with no one to blame but themselves.
It's not as if Republicans have nothing to worry about. Congress's approval rating is so low you wonder if any incumbent's mom is going to vote for him or her. The one thing that Republicans in Congress have going for them is that they aren't Dubya or any other President around their necks.