March 08, 2010
Who gets to run against the big bad Congress?
Carl Cannon thinks Barack Obama will win reelection in 2012 for a variety of reasons, one of which involves the dynamics of Congress. He compares the situation to that of Reagan and Clinton:
...Incumbency is supposed to be a disadvantage in the current political environment, but that perception is worth a closer look. It's certainly true that people have a low opinion of Congress. A recent Gallup Poll put the percentage of Americans who approve of the job Congress is doing at 18 percent, the lowest figure in a year. A number of governors have seen the bottom fall out of their polling numbers, too. So yes, anti-incumbency is potent right now. But so is the bully pulpit. At this point in his presidency Ronald Reagan's job approval rating was in the mid-40s, lower than Obama's is now. In the 1982 midterm elections, Reagan's party lost 26 seats in the House. Two years later, Reagan carried 49 states while winning 58.5 percent of the popular vote in his re-election bid.Which is why (as I have argued repeatedly) it is absolutely vital to Obama that the Republicans retake Congress in the fall elections. It is likely that Congress will remain unpopular even if the Republicans win, but an unpopular Democratic Congress hurts him a lot more than an unpopular Republican Congress. Obama will have a much better shot at selling himself as an alternative when he can play victim to a Republican Congress. OTOH, I think that if the Republicans lose, Obama may well be toast.
The 1994 elections positioned Clinton perfectly to offer an alternative, and to appeal to the traditional love affair American voters have with "checks and balances."
Plus, there's always the chance of something unforeseen and nasty happening:
In 1994 when I was covering the White House for the Baltimore Sun, I spent the week of the midterm elections vacationing in Arizona. It turned out I missed a pretty big political story -- the first GOP takeover of Congress in 40 years, to be precise -- and when on my return our congressional correspondent told me breezily, "While you were gone, your beat disappeared." I accepted the needle, but remember my private reaction, "I don't think the White House disappears."He doesn't mention the attempt on Reagan's life, but I think that also created a very strong emotional and even moral bond between ordinary Americans and the president.
Of course, there's no way to go back in time and play out alternate history scenarios. What if the Democrats had managed to hold Congress in '94? What if there had been no Oklahoma City? Might he too have been a one-term president like Carter? We'll never know.
But we do have an unpopular president with a much more unpopular Congress.
Here are the current RCP Poll Averages:
President Obama Job ApprovalI may be wrong, but my reading of what this means is that the more Congress pisses off the American public right now, the more it will help the president in 2012.
After all, he can't very well run against his own Congress, can he?
posted by Eric on 03.08.10 at 10:27 AM
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