A recent poll from McClatchy/Marist shows a loss of confidence in President Barack Obama among the general electorate. According to the September 20, 2011 poll, Obama’s approval rating is at 39% among registered voters nationally, an all-time low for him. For the first time in his presidency, a majority — 52% — disapproves of his job performance, and 9% are undecided.
Polls are snapshot representations of a small group of people. With some proper rules and solid theoretical reasoning, they can yield crude, yet occasionally effective attempts at understanding the general population. Polls are fickle – that is, indecisive. Similar to the people they represent, most polls cannot tell us the whole truth, and the reality they seek to model may change quickly and dramatically.
Some might find that a variety of recent polls show that President Obama’s chances in the coming 2012 Presidential election are in serious jeopardy. However, polls and press like this don’t faze me much at all. I find that when we stop to consider the facts, whether you like it or not, President Obama will almost certainly win the 2012 election.
Unlike liberal pundits, who claim that Obama is sure to win based on a largely subjective election formula, I reached the same conclusion using more conventional, hopefully objective material. Here are some of the major reasons why.
First is the fact that Obama’s financial base remains strong. Obama’s electoral coffers are almost certainly going to be much larger than those of the Republican candidate.
Secondly, the Republican Party has internal divisions. This has proven to be a partial deal-breaker for the Republican Party in the past (George H. W. Bush, among others). Obviously this isn’t the only challenge for Republicans, but the fact remains that party divisions can lead to political disaster.
Third, it will be particularly important that the Republican presidential candidate is sufficiently skilled at unifying, rallying, and leading party supporters, while being charismatic and persuasive enough to keep expanding the Republican base. They must do this while going toe-to-toe with a fully-activated, campaign-charged Obama: a tall order for the current candidate lineup.
Fourth, among blacks, latinos and other ethnic minorities, Obama is still the candidate of choice by far. The voting strength of these groups remains significant, and Republican candidates still have difficulty appealing to them without alienating their base.
Fifth, for the past few years, Republicans have lost some of their political clout and public image by being staunchly ideological and politically unresponsive in the face of important national debates and crises. I’m thinking of the healthcare and debt ceiling debates in particular. These issues revealed a startling sort of stubbornness among the Republican caucus, as well as growing ideological polarization among the American electorate.
As we know, the general population tends to be fairly evenly split between Democratic and Republican supporters at election time. Some see this phenomenon as an American political trademark: we prefer divided government because it facilitates compromise.
While President Obama has been fairly bipartisan – seeking to compromise and broker deals between the Republicans and Democrats – the Republican caucus has shown a major lack of this characteristic “American” political flair.
Finally, as political scientists will tell you, barring political incompetence, incumbents tend to win. Those who hold an office are more likely to keep it, for a variety of good (and bad) reasons.
Obama’s opponents regularly compare his approval ratings (Oh, here come the polls again) to that of previous presidents, and state that they’re dangerously close to a number of one-term presidents like Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. The problem here is that present approval ratings have very little bearing on future voting percentages. You don’t have to approve of a medicine to know you’d be better off taking it.
The biggest challenges to Obama’s 2012 bid will be shaping a positive image of his handling of the economy, motivating a disparate and disillusioned Democratic Party base, and building another top-notch political campaign that will motivate the American public and win over independent voters. The presidential election is around 13 months away: more than enough time to energize the Democratic base and launch a strong campaign.
Obama’s task will not be an easy one. He has a lot of work ahead of him, and some stiff opposition; but as I see it, his success in the 2012 election is largely secure.