Sunday, July 22, 2012

Political Polls: “The Economic News is Overwhelming Everything Else”

Obama and his campaign team have hit on what would should be a really good plan of attack by focusing on Romney's aristocratic refusal to release his tax returns.  Despite Americans’ glorification of business elites, one thing that has traditionally been deplored is wealthy people taking on aristocratic airs.  Even when scions of wealthy families like Romney or Bush aren’t self-made millionaires with common origins, they’re expected to act like it.  We Americans (unfortunately) don’t have a problem with people being rich, but we also don’t tolerate rich people rubbing it in our faces or setting themselves up above the rest of us.  
Romney’s assertion that his wealth, how he got it, how he offshored it, and how much he returned to the public coffers in taxes displays exactly such an aristocratic attitude -- as does “Anntionette” Romney saying this week "we've given all you people need to know" about the family finances.  The Obama campaign is right to target this Romney soft spot.
Yet the Democratic attack isn’t working, at least not yet -- Romney just tied Obama in Virginia, and the polls remain close nationwide. One Obama insider has confided that his top campaign advisors believe he’ll win re-election by the thinnest of razor margins -- 51 percent to 49 percent.  Why is the race neck-and-neck?  Because the economy sucks: Obama has not delivered for the people in a way that they can feel in their daily lives and pocketbooks:  

The takeaway from this poll is similar to the one drawn from the CBS/New York Times data: the economic news is overwhelming everything else, including the attacks on Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and his refusal to release his tax returns.
One strong predictor of the November vote, political scientists have long known, is the state of the economy about six months before the election. It’s far too late to improve the economy now. 
There is a lesson in this that is always worth repeating: the Democrats' failure to take a populist turn and do a second New Deal after Obama's first victory in 2008 may cost them the presidency in 2012. You can complain all you want that it wasn't "politically possible" because of the Democrats in Congress, or you can chalk it up, as many political insiders do, to Obama’s compromising temperament.  Either way, the responsibility for this massive failure of good governance and political strategy rests with the Democrats themselves. They should have FOUND A WAY to do another New Deal, but I guess that's too much to ask of such a myopic and weak political party.  When will they learn that the best way to win the most is to govern well, i.e., in a populist way that benefits the people rather than the corporate elite?
I once heard a political scientist argue that the most economic electoral strategy is for a candidate to win as close to a majority as possible and no more, i.e. 51 percent, because that way a campaign doesn’t waste its resources.  The Democrats always seem to follow this silly strategy, while the Republicans follow the political equivalent of the Powell Doctrine -- go into battle with all you’ve got and aim for overwhelming victory.  Perhaps that has something to do with the fact they usually win the ideological war even when they lose individual elections?

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