Stuart Rothenberg

Why Republicans are suddenly afraid of Obama

My only concern is that the more they fear him, more dastardly, dirtier deeds will occur to try and beat him in 2012…

Salon

After their midterm triumph, you’d think they’d be lining up for a chance to run against him. But they’re not.

At Politico on Monday, Jonathan Martin does a nice job explaining the “reality check” that Republicans are now waking up to: Barack Obama seems to be in decent political shape as the 2012 cycle begins, while “breezy predictions of Obama turning out to be the next Jimmy Carter were premature.”

That it’s come to this shouldn’t be that surprising. As we noted over and over last year as Obama and his fellow Democrats braced for a midterm drubbing, the two-year verdict on a presidency is often extremely misleading — as the examples of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both attest. With his party running Washington and with the economy reeling, it was pretty much inevitable that the first half of Obama’s first term would play out the way it did.

What is surprising, though, is how quickly it’s come to this. When Reagan and Clinton suffered miserable midterms, they were both written off — by their political opponents, by the media and even by members of their own party — as sure one-termers, and the assessment held until well into their third years in office.

Remember that Clinton’s defensive assertion of his own relevance as president came not in the immediate wake of November 1994 midterms, but more than five months later, on April 18, 1995. By that point, the Republican presidential field for 1996 was pretty much in place. And even though Clinton’s poll numbers showed steady improvement in the months after that (while support for the GOP Congress and its public face, Newt Gingrich, collapsed), conventional wisdom late in ’95 still held that Clinton was the clear underdog heading into ’96. For instance, when a poll in early November ’95 — just before the famous government shutdown — showed Clinton’s approval climbing to an 18-month high (52 percent) and gave him a 10-point lead (53 to 43 percent) over GOP front-runner Bob Dole, political analyst Stuart Rothenberg offered this assessment on CNN:

Frankly, I don’t think the president is quite as strong as he now appears for a couple of reasons. One, I expect the political debate to be very different next spring and next summer, with different sorts of issues being addressed including tax reform; and second of all, I was looking at some of these state polls, and Bill Clinton is leading Bob Dole in Virginia, in Arizona, in Florida. I don’t know anybody who follows these sorts of polls and these races who believes that the president is really going to win those states.

Of course, Clinton went on to carry Florida over Dole with ease in ’96. He also won Arizona and finished less than 2 points shy of victory in Virginia. Overall, Clinton netted 379 electoral votes after a campaign that is now remembered (if it is remembered at all) for being particularly boring, uneventful and predictable. But it wasn’t until the end of 1995 and the early months of 1996 that it began dawning on the political class that this would be the outcome. Until then, the “Republican Revolution” of ’94 had distorted most political analysis: Look how thoroughly Americans had rejected Clinton and his party — there’s just no way they’ll rally back to the Democrats two years later!

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Former Republican Sen. Warns GOP May ‘Have Gone So Far Overboard That We Are Beyond Redemption’

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ri...

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As many have claimed over and over, “This current Republican Party is not your father or grandfather’s Republican Part.”   The current far-right GOP make Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41 and 43 look like flaming liberals.

Former Republican Senator Sen. John Danforth of Missouri took issue with the current GOP for targeting Sen. Richard Lugar who is  taking issue with his party for blocking the ratification of the New START treaty.

Think Progress

In an age when far-right tea party activists have taken over the Republican Party and demanded lockstep allegiance, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has been one of the few GOP lawmakers to step out of line. In particular, Lugar, the ranking GOP member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has blasted his own party for relentlessly blocking ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia for petty political reasons, calling on his fellow GOP senators to “do your duty for your country” and complete the pact.

Not surprisingly, this insubordination has earned Lugar significant scorn within the Republican base, which now seems to value blind obedience over principled independent decision-making. In a New York Times profile of Lugar published today, former GOP Sen. John Danforth feared that the backlash against Lugar from his own party signals that the GOP has gone “far overboard” with no hope of turning back:

“If Dick Lugar,” said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

Mr. Danforth, who was first elected the same year as Mr. Lugar, added, “I’m glad Lugar’s there and I’m not.”

Danforth’s fears are not unfounded. Lugar, who is up for reelection in 2012, has already been targeted by tea party groups. “If I was Dick Lugar, I would certainly expect a challenge,” noted veteran political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. As Diane Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Tea Party, told the Times, removing Lugar “will be a difficult challenge. But we do believe it’s doable, and we think the climate is right for it and we believe it is a must.”

Indeed, asked about a potential tea party challenge motivated by his breaks with the GOP on START and other issues, Lugar suggested the party has drifted to the right while he has stayed steady, saying, “These are just areas where I’ve had stances for a long time.”