By John Pagani*
Bernard and I had an exchange in the comments of my post last week about the success or otherwise of Obama's presidency.
I think Obama is going to be re-elected. It's not a sure thing, obviously, but the numbers are interesting.
Look at 23 separate polls in the US showing a two to one majority for the US federal deficit to be reduced in part by some increase in taxes.
A majority of republican Congressmen, including Michelle Bachman, have signed a pledge not to increase taxes. They get pincered by the question: how are you going to reduce the deficit? Especially now the super-committee is going to be setting out options for cutting spending that reveal it's not about hacking away at a few symbolic 'wasteful' items, but cutting deep into services Americans cherish.
The Republicans today remind me of Democrats in the early 80s - and the British Labour party then too, where their ideological wing takes the party hostage. No electable platform is capable of getting through the party, which drives away the centre, which makes the fringe even more triumphant … and so on in a death spiral that only dismal and repeated defeat can arrest.
Here's an interesting note:
Obama’s approval rating lows, to date, are higher than those for any President since Kennedy.
The argument goes that the high approval rating 'floor' indicates a large base, from which it is easier to build a winning majority - even if you take the view that Obama's presidency has failed.
This Bloomberg column is a sophisticated and highly convincing explanation of how this all plays out:
Mitt Romney kicked off his campaign by delivering a succinct verdict: “Barack Obama has failed America.” After last weekend, Republicans will also say: Has America’s credit improved or deteriorated?
If the election is fought on those lines, then Obama will almost certainly lose. His strategy will therefore be to make it a choice election. He is going to want the small number of swing voters to think: No, I’m not satisfied with how things are going and I have my doubts about Obama, but I’m more worried about the radicalism of the Republicans on Medicare and their fealty to big business.
As far as anyone can tell today, perceptions of the economy on Election Day are going to be closer to what they were in 2008 than what they were in 2004. That’s what the Republican referendum theory has going for it. But the president’s approval rating tells a different story. Since Obama’s honeymoon ended, it has moved in a fairly narrow range, never going below 44 percent and rarely going above 51 percent in the RCP average. It doesn’t put him in cinch-to-win or sure-loser territory.
That suggests that the election is going to be a choice -- and that merely being an acceptable alternative to a failed incumbent won’t be enough for the Republicans to win the White House.
*John Pagani is an independent political consultant and writer who has worked as an adviser to Labour Leader Phil Goff. He writes his own blog at Posterous.