It sounds like a political pattern is about to repeat itself: Democratic voters are disillusioned, a focus group in Colorado shows. This in itself isn’t huge news but — in politically historical terms — when it comes to Democrats it could be a recipe for disaster:
Last night, veteran Democratic pollster Peter Hart conducted a focus group featuring 12 undecided, ticket-splitting voters in Colorado, which illustrated the tough challenge President Obama faces in winning a second term. He’s lost significant ground among these swing voters: Ten of the participants voted for Obama in 2008; only three of them said they leaned towards re-electing him in 2012. In an initial survey taking leaners into account, Mitt Romney led Obama 5-3, with four completely undecided.
Listening to the feedback from the group, it was striking how many of them have grown disillusioned from their own expectations set by Obama’s soaring rhetoric from 2008, and the less-inspiring reality that transpired.
After being shown footage of a campaign speech by Obama, the prevailing sentiment was that the president was a slick salesman, but his words didn’t match his actions.
“I got duped. I fell under his spell. What he’s done with the car industry is the only real success,” said Patrick Allen, a 27-year-old health care consultant, who voted for Obama in 2008. “I feel like I was somewhat lied to.”
“He came in as a wild card… I haven’t seen him do anything extraordinary,” said Kelly Capra, 49, a United Airlines customer service representative who said she’d vote for him if he “could do something huge, like really lower the price of gas.”
Most believed the economy was slowly improving, but not at a fast enough pace for them to justify supporting him again. And several expressed concern that the economy could again head into a freefall, opinions shaped by the pessimistic economic reports in recent weeks.
Almost unanimously, the participants said they’d prefer to hang out with Obama over Romney, but no one said that would shape their vote in November. It’s a sign that even if Obama holds a significant edge on personal likability, it’s unlikely to translate into many votes if they view his job performance unfavorably.
Why is this a recipe for disaster?
Democrats essentially squandered the political dominance they had from FDR, to JFK to LBJ by over the years deciding to punish their own party and stay home on election day, or just stay home because they didn’t get every marble they hoped would be in the pile. (Dear, God, please spare me hearing people say Obama’s troubles would be erased if he had only insisted on “the public option.”)
Then after the elections they express shock as they see the courts be peppered with more and more Republicans, the Supreme Court being transformed to a conservative court (under Romney it would be transformed into an overtly and almost totally Supreme Court), how Republicans are more inclined to use every speck of power their office gives them, and how Republican governors use the levers of power like old time political bosses, using their offices to change the political equation as best they can — and they then complain about talk radio, echo chambers and now it’ll be big money.
But the bottom line is, Democrats will have a better chance if people get out and vote (d-u-h) – -and there is a real chance that the Dems will be demoralized and stay home while GOPers will happily flock to the polls anticipating the moment of Obama’s concession speech. Time’s Mark Halperin notes GOP jubilation already here.
Hey, but it’d keep MSNBC and many blogs busy. They can make ringing statements for four years about how the system is stacked against them.
The biggest “stacK’ against either party is people staying home.
It’s a self stacked stack.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.