Obama’s Credibility Gap with Mainstream Voters

Obama’s Credibility Gap with Mainstream Voters

REUTERS/Larry Downing

President Obama got bad fundraising news this week from April’s efforts.  The combined haul from his partnership with the DNC came to $43.6 million, a drop of twenty percent from the previous month.  The Obama campaign tried to put the best spin on the news, and the media mainly accepted the campaign spin, although a few pointed out the drop from March’s $53 million.  The Los Angeles Times also noted that Obama raised $32 million in April 2008 by himself – while competing against Hillary Clinton for the nomination, as a non-incumbent without DNC assistance.

Clearly, the Obama presidency isn’t selling as well as expected, and not at all as well as the Obama candidacy of 2008.  In that election, with an electorate fatigued by eight years of George W. Bush and two wars, the Left had a pretty easy sales job.  All they had to do was argue against the status quo and highlight Barack Obama as an agent of change.
They painted Hillary Clinton as a throwback to an entrenched Democratic establishment who couldn’t possibly change direction enough, a strategy that succeeded in derailing the almost-sure-bet historical candidacy of a former First Lady.  Then, in the general election, all the Left had to do was get out of the way and allow Obama to benefit from Bush fatigue and the panic over the financial collapse that occurred just weeks before the election.

Several factors play into this problem for Team Obama.  In 2008, Obama was a blank screen with a very thin record, which meant that Obama had very little to defend.  After more than three years in office, that no longer applies, and Obama has had such a difficult time defending his record on jobs and the economy that he rarely discusses it.  Two bad jobs reports in a row – and even worse data on actual jobs – have tempered enthusiasm for Obama this year.  Any incumbent President would find it difficult to maintain political momentum in a stagnating economy, and the winter saw another slowdown, the third in a row for Obama.

The problem for Obama and the Left this time is that they have to make an actual sales pitch – and judging from their efforts, they don’t know how to talk effectively enough to middle America to succeed at it. This problem starts at the top.  Earlier this week, Obama appeared on ABC’s The View to discuss his candidacy, as well as his endorsement last week of legalization of same-sex marriage.  When talk turned to the campaign, Obama told his hosts, “When your name is Barack Obama, it’s always tight,” and then added, “Barack Hussein Obama!” 

For the record, Obama won the first majority victory for a Democrat in the popular vote in 2008 since Jimmy Carter, and won the Electoral College by nearly 200 votes.  In his Senate election in 2004, the outcome was an oh-so-narrow victory over Alan Keyes of 70% to 27%.  Not only was this patently false, but it unfairly accused American voters of racism and xenophobia almost four years after the same electorate put him into office.

The latest Obama campaign effort, “The Life of Julia,” also demonstrates an odd disconnect with American voters.  Team Obama obviously wants to exploit the normal Democratic gender gap in the upcoming election by focusing on what it perceives as womens’ issues.  Their Life of Julia depicts what they see as all of the benefits for women in an Obama-governed world – but to a great many other people, looks more like a cautionary tale.  Julia takes seven years to get a degree, gets pregnant without ever getting married, the child disappears from her life after age 5, and she ends up alone at 67 – and every stage of her life, Julia is dependent on government programs.  The artwork lends a creepy tone to the presentation, as Julia goes through life with no eyes or mouth.  That doesn’t exactly look like empowerment.

The problem isn’t limited to the official Obama campaign, either.  In April, Democratic political adviser Hilary Rosen stepped all over the Obama campaign’s “war on women” meme by asserting that Ann Romney, a mother of five who suffers from multiple sclerosis, “never worked a day in her life.”  Comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher, who donated $1 million to the super-PAC supporting Barack Obama, followed up by claiming that “Ann Romney never got her ass out of the house to work.” Mrs. Romney, of course, volunteered for a number of charities while raising their family.  Rosen eventually gave a grudging apology, but the episode left a lingering distaste among women who opt to stay home rather than hold a job outside the home while raising children.

This week, journalist and author Michelle Goldberg managed to alienate most of the rest of the mothers in the electorate.  The MSNBC contributor sneered at a rather anodyne statement from Mitt Romney celebrating motherhood on Mother’s Day and turned it into a cautionary tale about totalitarian monsters.  Romney’s statement referred to a “crown of motherhood,” rather obviously a metaphor, but Goldberg turned into a Nazi salute:
“I found that phrase ‘the crown of motherhood’ really kind of creepy, not just because of its, like, somewhat you know, I mean, it’s kind of usually really authoritarian societies that give out like ‘The Cross of Motherhood,’ that give awards for big families. You know, Stalin did it, Hitler did it.”

Remember when respect for motherhood was as American as, well, apple pie?  Now apparently it’s Nazi strudel.  Unlike Rosen, Goldberg was in no mood for an apology, either, tweeting that she was only truly sorry for giving “the Right a pretext for another tedious spasm of feigned outrage.” 

It’s not outrage, though, that threatens the Left and Obama’s chances at a second term.  The problem is that they have no clue how they sound to mainstream American voters.  Even worse, they have made a Herculean effort to talk about everything under the sun except what concerns American voters in 2012 – jobs and the economy.  Obama and his allies increasingly demonstrate a disconnect from the reality of American life, and it’s that disconnect that might very well prove to be the Republican Party’s best asset in the 2012 elections.