The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Does Obama Thrive on Issues When They’re Out of the Spotlight?


I think there’s a lot of this interpretation of recent poll number ebbs and flows from one of my regulars, Poll Watcher:

I have noticed this trend with many of Obama initiatives, when they are hotly debated they are very unpopular, when the debate stops the polls start to normalize. I recall looking at Obama issue polling, and seeing that the one issue he did the best on is foreign policy. I thought to myself, ‘how is that possible?’ Then I realized that because domestic issues dominated the news cycle, the press had not focused on international issues; withno coverage, his polls are good.

. . . Of course some might ask, is Obama a “Teflon” President? To which I respond, ‘all Presidents in their first two years are more or less Teflon. The country is almost always going to give them the benefit of the doubt (we want our president to succeed — not trying to play on words, {e.g. Limbaugh] . . . Rush’s point in not wanting Obama to succeed is a different play on the same words [and why he got in trouble]). But I have another theory. Its called the paper clip. Obama can keep bouncing back on individual issues, but each time you bend the paperclip it becomes weaker; bend it too much and it breaks. I believe Obama’s inner circle gets this to some extent . . . this explains why he doesn’t do as many press conferences (one I think), and he has exposed himself a lot less in 2010 than 2009.

. . . The GOP is gearing up, but I would expect the summer to be relatively stable. Come early October, things are going to get very very hot very fast. From a tactics standpoint, I give the GOP a ton of credit for holding its cards close to the vest. No reason to play the election out in July.

Has anyone asked themselves if Scott Brown is the reason Scott Brown won — and won by as large a margin as he did? Sure, he’s charismatic, but was there something else going on with the electorate. The guy is down by 25 to 30 points, he runs on an anti-Obamacare/pro defense platform, and all of a sudden the voters are thinking about those issues and its a dead heat, then the momentum sweeps him into office. Six months later, in the state of Massachusetts, he is more popular than Kerry and Obama. If I were DNC Chairman, this is what would keep me up very late.

This assessment makes sense if you suspect the average voter would prefer to not worry. If the health-care legislation is in the news, they have to worry about whether it will make the system worse. If it’s out of the headlines, then that topic is out of sight and out of mind. If the economy is dominating the news, then most voters are focused on concerns about that, and a similar dynamic for the oil spill, for Afghanistan, for the housing market, and so on.

If this is the case, than the mild uptick for Obamacare in recent polls is nothing significant; it simply means that it isn’t at the forefront of voters’ worries.

Tags: 2010 , Barack Obama , Scott Brown


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