Monday, November 21, 2011

The Thrill Is Gone

Remenber as you watch this that Chris Matthews is the man so smitten by Barack Obama that he confessed before the last presidential election that he had a thrill up his leg when he heard Barack Obama speak. Evidently, it's the morning after and Mr. Matthews is beginning to realize he spent the night with, if not a cad, then a poseur:
This should not be taken to suggest that Mr. Obama has lost the Chris Matthews liberals, but that there's tremendous dissatisfaction with the president's underperformance. Slowly, the realization that they've elected Chauncey Gardener is creeping over them.

Nor is it just Matthews who no longer feels the tingle. Democrat pollsters Pat Caddell (President Carter) and Doug Schoen (President Clinton) are calling for President Obama to step aside. A president who cannot plausibly run for reelection on his record has only one course left to him which is to try to destroy the opposition. Schoen and Caddell believe that this is the only path Obama can follow, but even if he wins with such a strategy it would be a Pyrrhic victory. He'll have so toxified the political atmosphere that governing would be impossible:
Put simply, it seems that the White House has concluded that if the president cannot run on his record, he will need to wage the most negative campaign in history to stand any chance. With his job approval ratings below 45% overall and below 40% on the economy, the president cannot affirmatively make the case that voters are better off now than they were four years ago. He—like everyone else—knows that they are worse off.

President Obama is now neck and neck with a generic Republican challenger in the latest Real Clear Politics 2012 General Election Average (43.8%-43.%). Meanwhile, voters disapprove of the president's performance 49%-41% in the most recent Gallup survey, and 63% of voters disapprove of his handling of the economy, according to the most recent CNN/ORC poll.

Consequently, he has to make the case that the Republicans, who have garnered even lower ratings in the polls for their unwillingness to compromise and settle for gridlock, represent a more risky and dangerous choice than the current administration — an argument he's clearly begun to articulate.

One year ago in these pages, we warned that if President Obama continued down his overly partisan road, the nation would be "guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it." The result has been exactly as we predicted: stalemate in Washington, fights over the debt ceiling, an inability to tackle the debt and deficit, and paralysis exacerbating market turmoil and economic decline.

If President Obama were to withdraw, he would put great pressure on the Republicans to come to the table and negotiate — especially if the president singularly focused in the way we have suggested on the economy, job creation, and debt and deficit reduction. By taking himself out of the campaign, he would change the dynamic from who is more to blame — George W. Bush or Barack Obama? — to a more constructive dialogue about our nation's future.
Schoen and Caddell believe that were Barack Obama to step aside the Democrats would nominate Hillary Clinton by acclamation and that she'd be a formidable candidate.I think they're right, and I think that the last thing the GOP wants is for the president to take the pollsters' advice. Fortunately, from their perspective, there's not much chance that he will.