The avalanche of bad political news falling on President Barack Obama continues. On Thursday he’ll give a speech which many analysts expect will try to reframe his re-election bid — and he’s getting lots of advice. The avalanche of bad news pounding Obama raises questions such as whether this is symptomatic of a re-election campaign that is unraveling, vote-suppressing Democratic disunity and disillusionment, an articulate President who has trouble completely expressing himself, or being simply outclassed politically by GOPers who know how to run smoother campaigns — and better unify their party.
Or, is this just a major blip on a very tough re-election battle for Obama, one that will require a major recalibration? In a few months will June be seen as a major turning point, where pundits and the public basically concluded Obama couldn’t cut it as President and/or win the Presidency? Or will the month be seen as a valley in a campaign that rose to peaks culminating in a victory?
But so much of the news coming out now not good for Team Obama.
Just take a look at some of these tidbits:
*Obama’s polling numbers are showing signs of erosion at this writing in several states. So even when he gets good news about being ahead, it isn’t terrific news.
Barack Obama continues to be favored to win Nevada again in 2012, but his position there is a good deal weaker than it was in 2008. Obama leads Romney 48-42. That’s down a touch from our last poll in late March when he was ahead 51-43. And it’s down quite a bit from his 12 point margin of victory in the state in 2008.
Obama’s struggles, at least compared to last time, in Nevada can be traced back to the state’s economy. A 41% plurality of voters in the state think the economy has gotten worse since Obama took office to only 37% who think it’s gotten better. Independents are more pessimistic than the electorate as a whole, with 44% of them feeling things have worsened to 33% who believe Obama has brought an improvement.
Obama has a narrowly positive approval rating in the state, with 49% of voters giving him good marks to 47% who dissent. Nevadans still aren’t real high on Romney and that’s serving to help Obama’s prospects there. Romney has a 41% favorability rating with 53% of voters rating him negatively.
This is a rare state where Romney’s running mate choice really could have an impact on how ‘in play’ it is for the fall. Brian Sandoval is one of the most popular Governors in the country with a 52/28 approval rating. If he was on the ticket Obama’s lead in the state would drop to 47-44, very much within the winnable range for Romney. Sandoval’s presence would flip Romney from trailing 37-35 with independents to leading 43-39 with them.
Obama’s still a clear favorite in Nevada and if he loses this state it will probably mean he’s getting blown out in the electoral college already. But clearly his position there is not what it was in 2008.
Analysts see some warning flags in Pennsylvania:
The latest poll in Pennsylvania gives President Barack Obama a six point lead over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, though voters in the Keystone State say Romney would do a better job fixing the nation’s troubled economy.
The poll from Quinnipiac University indicated Obama leading Romney 46%-40%. The president’s lead was bolstered by strong advantages over Romney among women and independents – 51% of women back Obama, compared to 36% who support Romney. Forty-three percent of independents say they would vote for Obama, compared to 35% who would go for Romney.
Voters were more confident in how a President Romney would handle the economy. Forty-nine percent say the former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential candidate would better handle the economy, compared to 41% who named Obama. Forty-five percent said Romney would create more jobs as president, while 43% said Obama would be stronger on job creation.
Obama still rates far higher than his Republican rival on likeability – 77% percent of Pennsylvania voters say Obama is a likeable person, compared to 58% who say the same of Romney.
“President Barack Obama is holding his ground against Gov. Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, wrote in a statement accompanying the poll’s release. “While almost four-fifths of voters, including 58 percent of Republicans, say the President is a likable person, where the rubber meets the road on the campaign trail – the economy – Romney has the lead.”
Malloy continued, “Pennsylvanians may like the president more than they like Mitt Romney, but the warm and fuzzy feeling gives way to the cold hard truth of a still shaky economy.”
*Money keeps pouring into Republican coffers. For instance, these big bucks from the guy who helped keep former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the race way longer than Gringch would have stayed in without his casino owning check-writer:
Billionaire conservative casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who helped keep Newt Gingrich’s failed presidential campaign alive during the Republican primaries, is giving $10 million to the super PAC supporting the presumptive GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The leader of the super PAC Restore Our Future, Carl Forti, wouldn’t confirm the donation and said his policy was to not comment on donors or potential donors. Mr. Adelson’s spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.
The $ 10 million figure appears to be the largest single donation towards Mr. Romney’s efforts so far. The independent political action committee, by law, cannot coordinate its work with the formal Romney campaign.
Mr. Adelson is chairman and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which includes the famous Venetian casino in Las Vegas, as well as casinos in Macau and Singapore. Forbes Magazine has ranked him among the 10 wealthiest Americans with a net worth of more than $20 billion.
Mr. Adelson and his family gave $21 million in total to a PAC supporting Mr. Gingrich during the early primaries, but turned off the spigot after Mr. Gingrich fell far behind in the races and the delegate count.
*Meanwhile, Wall Street is shelling out big bucks for Mitt Romney putting its money where its of dissing Obama is.
*The AFL-CIO is reportedly pulling funds from the Obama campaign. And, yes, there is a nice cover story, but analysts are calling it for what it is. Which raises the question: does the AFL-CIO think they’d have a more sympathetic President with President Romney — backed by an all Republican Congress. And –eventually — a totally conservative Supreme Court? (Just asking..)
The AFL-CIO has told Washington Whispers it will redeploy funds away from political candidates smack dab in the middle of election season, the latest sign that the largest federation of unions in the country could be becoming increasingly disillusioned with President Obama.
The federation says the shift has been in the works for months, and had nothing to do with the president’s failure to show in Wisconsin last week, where labor unions led a failed recall election of Governor Scott Walker.
“We wanted to start investing our funds in our own infrastructure and advocacy,” AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein told Whispers. “There will be less contributions to candidates,” including President Obama.
While there were “a lot of different opinions” about whether Obama should have gone to Wisconsin, according to Goldstein, “this is not a slight at the president.”
The AFL-CIO has been at odds with the president before Wisconsin on issues such as the public health insurance option and renewing the Bush tax cuts.
The shift in funding is significant due to the federation’s role in past presidential campaigns, where the AFL-CIO built up a massive political structure in the months leading up the election, including extensive “Get Out The Vote” efforts, as well as financial contributions.
This time around, Goldstein says, the federation wants to build a more long-lasting structure, giving “different kinds of support to different candidates.”
And that may mean more politically independent candidates.
If big labor is not solidly backing a Democratic candidate this would be a major shift — basically a sign of a yet another stage of unravelling of the New Deal/New Frontier/Great Society coalitions that helped keep Democrats in the majority.
*An embarrassing document from Obama’s free trade negotiations has been leaked on line, The Huffington Post reports:
A critical document from President Barack Obama’s free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.
The leaked document has been posted on the website of Public Citizen, a long-time critic of the administration’s trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.
“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of [trade] negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch in a written statement.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been so incensed by the lack of access as to introduce legislation requiring further disclosure. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has gone so far as to leak a separate document from the talks on his website. Other Senators are considering writing a letter to Ron Kirk, the top trade negotiator under Obama, demanding more disclosure.
The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.
Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.
The terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.
*Obama is losing support among 2008 centrist and liberal donors:
The 2008 donors who haven’t returned to President Obama are disproportionately centrists and very liberal Democrats, while regular Democrats have stuck by the president, according to a new analysis of campaign finance data.
The analysis, by Stanford political scientist Adam Bonica, matches and deepens a BuzzFeed finding that roughly 90% of those who gave more than $200 to Obama haven’t returned, a mark of the disillusionment among some of his early supporters and of his ongoing struggle — despite the advantages of organization and incumbency — to keep even with his 2008 fundraising totals.
“The 2008 donors who were most likely to give again in 2012 are those with ideological scores most similar to Obama’s, whereas moderate-to-conservative donors and those on far left are significantly less likely to re-up,” Bonica said.
Bonica’s model is based on a large swathe of publicly available campaign finance data. He examined all of Obama’s $200-plus individual donors from 2008 and 2012, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. He then gave each contributor an ideological “score” based on his or her past political donations, with -2 being the most liberal and 2 being the most conservative. Once each of Obama’s contributors had an ideological score, Bonica divided them into new, returning, and drop off donors before plotting them on comparative ideological graphs.
The story of Obama’s failure to impress the ideological progressives who had hoped he’d pass single-payer health care and battle Republicans, is a familiar story. But Bonica’s research suggests the degree to which conservative criticism has also eaten into Obama’s core support, leaving the president fighting a two-front battle.
Bonica said he was surprised by the finding.
“Initially my expectation was that Obama’s donors were going to be more moderate in 2012 than they were in 2008,” Bonica said.
But the collapse on both sides of the ideological spectrum makes sense, Bonica said, when thought of in the context of a candidate whose political record was as sparse as Obama’s was when he ran in 2008.
Some centrists donors may feel Obama went too far early in his term in trying to please his party’s liberal base. And liberals? I’ve often noted here how the Democratic Party’s liberal wing periodically decides to teach its party a lesson and stay home or not vote for candidates not pure enough. Then they complain about the way Republicans use power when they get power and wonder how the Supreme Court ever got that conservative and produced decisions such as Citizens United.
*Gallup has found that Obama’s white base has cracked when compared to 2008:
Gallup Daily tracking indicates Barack Obama is receiving less support in the 2012 presidential election from some of the white subgroups that gave him the strongest support in 2008. These include non-Hispanic white registered voters who are 18 to 29 years old, female postgrads, and the nonreligious, among others
Obama won the 2008 election comfortably over John McCain, but the 2012 election contest with Mitt Romney is shaping up to be more competitive, with the two statistically tied since Gallup started Daily tracking on the race in April. These findings partly explain why.
For this analysis, Gallup has compared Obama’s current support among registered voters, based on Gallup Daily tracking from May 21-June 10 with 7,343 registered voters, to his support among registered voters in Gallup’s last month of interviewing in the 2008 pre-election poll, from Oct. 1-Nov. 2, comprising 30,623 registered voters.
The 46% of registered voters supporting Obama today is five percentage points below the 51% supporting him in final weeks of the 2008 election campaign. Similarly, whites’ support for Obama is six points lower than it was in October/November 2008 (38% vs. 44%), and blacks’ is down four points (87% vs. 91%). At the same time, Hispanics’ support, at 67%, is essentially unchanged.
Whites make up about three-quarters of all U.S. registered voters, and are therefore the most important racial or ethnic group in any election, at least mathematically. Even if Obama were to regain his 2008 level of support among blacks and improve his support somewhat among Hispanics, he could still lose if his support among whites slips any further. By the same token, even a slight increase in whites’ support could secure his re-election.
Taken together, so much of the news can be boiled down to this: Romney is getting lots of money, his party is begrudgingly but enthusiastically unifying around him, and he’s controlling his image and his message. Obama is finding it hard to get money — even from some donors who helped him in 2008 — and leads a party that seems to have people who will (once again in American history) stay home and then wonder why the Congress, White House and Supreme Court don’t reflect their political preferences. And they’ll blame it all on talk radio and Citizens United.
Obama has the bully pulpit, to be sure.
But he’ll only have so many chances to get his campaign on track. And there are no signs at this point that Obama and the Democrats have Romney and Republicans seriously on the defensive.
Graphic via shutterstock.com
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.