Thursday, June 23, 2011

Does Obama Lose the 2012 Election? It;s Up to the GOP

Compare 2008, when Obama won, with today.

In 2008, Obama had everything going for him. People were mesmerized by his oratorical ability. The left was wildly enthusiastic. The first-black-President thing excited blacks and liberals even more. Supporting Obama became cool among the college set. The absence of a substantive record was actually an advantage because it allowed people to project onto Obama their own hopes and desires; that's what made "Hope and Change" a viable platform. People were already unhappy about Iraq and the housing bubble burst. The Republican ticket turned out to be weak. Then the financial crisis hit - the ultimate October Surprise. I believe many people concluded things were going to hell under the Republicans and rushed to vote for the Democrats.

Talk about a perfect political storm. Yet even under all these circumstances, Obama polled just 53% of the popular vote. That is a solid majority in American politics, but it is far short of a landslide.

Now things have changed dramatically. The energy and enthusiasm on the left is visibly gone. Electing the first black President has been done. He is widely reported as not cool any more among the college kids. Now he has a record, and it is a divisive and extremely disappointing one. People have been discovering that this is not their fathers' Democratic Party, but one that has been captured by its ideological left wing, and many of them don't like that. Iraq is winding down and the economy is working against him. While the left is dispirited, polls show independents are shifting rightwards, and the right is energized like I have never seen it before. There is a palpable shift in the country; just consider all the governorships and state legislatures that flipped to the GOP in 2010, along with the House of Representatives and solid gains in the Senate.

Working for him: The blacks will still turn out big, though possibly he might lose a point or two even there. The labor unions will increase their support of him frantically, because they can see the handwriting on the wall and they will be desperate to get him reelected. Afghanistan might just work for him by election time. He still gives a great speech, though people have become accustomed to that. He does have the advantage of incumbency. Most of all there is the risk, as others have noted, that the GOP can manage to defeat itself.

But add it all up, and a shift of four percentage points or more, maybe much more, does not look hard to achieve at all. It looks harder to not achieve it.

Suppose the GOP plays to win for once. With a viable candidate with general appeal. They will then have a historic chance to build a coalition of conservatives, moderates, independents, and Reagan Democrats that could isolate and marginalize the left.

Who might that be? At this moment, there are four, conceivably five, Republican candidates who I think could beat Obama: Rick Perry, the as-yet undeclared conservative governor of Texas; Jon Huntsman, a moderate who won election as governor of Utah, arguably the most conservative state in the Union; Tim Pawlenty, the successful former governor of Minnesota; and current frontrunner Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, despite his handicap among conservatives as the architect of RomneyCare. A possible dark horse (no pun intended) I am not prepared to eliminate: Herman Cain. It seems likely that any one of them can appeal to the center and to Reagan Democrats while keeping conservatives on board and excited about beating Obama. I think any two of these candidates, in any order, would add up to a winning ticket.

The winning platform would include: Cutting spending, holding down taxes, repealing Obamacare, opposing Cap -and-Trade and similar antigrowth policies, deregulating economic behavior wherever that will encourage economic growth and hence jobs, respecting the Constitution and the checks and balances principle in government, rejecting the European-stye welfare state, and a non-scary foreign policy. "Social issues" are divisive and should be downplayed.

Dear readers, make up your minds to work for such a candidate and platform because 2012 will be a watershed election that determines what kind of country the US is going to be. Your country needs you.