My only concern is that the more they fear him, more dastardly, dirtier deeds will occur to try and beat him in 2012…
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!
- Poll: Americans split on who to blame for a shutdown (politico.com)
- Deepak Chopra: Welcome to the Rorschach President (huffingtonpost.com)
- Right-wing rage and Democratic presidents (salon.com)
- The Fix: Why the government won’t shut down – Washington Post (news.google.com)
- Why 2011’s budget woes don’t mirror 1995 (msnbc.msn.com)
- The political world should know better by now (washingtonmonthly.com)
- Politics, Economics or Short Memory? Reagan Tops Presidential Popularity Poll (dailyfinance.com)
- Obama Losing Judge Wars, Former DOJ Official Says (legaltimes.typepad.com)