Forget all the political commentary over the last three weeks: the fact is the killing of Osama bin Laden helped Obama.
Steve Lombardo | All Articles
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Steve Lombardo is President & CEO of Lombardo Consulting Group, a public opinion research firm that advises corporations and industry associations and is based in Washington, D.C. He served as a strategy and communications advisor to the Romney for President campaign in 2008.
A week ago today, voters flipped the Obama coalition on its head and voted for Republicans in a mid-term landslide that has the potential to be a transformational election. Notice how we used the word “potential.” That’s because every new majority can go in one of two directions: it can either cement its winning coalition or it can fritter it all away. History will be the judge, but the next 12 months will give us a pretty good indication of how this will turn out. Either way, what is clear is that this was a historic defeat for Democrats. And the depth and breadth of the GOP wave was greater than most people realize.
It has been called the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn in decades. Yet the current economic situation — while an extremely important component of this election — takes a back seat to one man. These mid-term elections are, and always have been, about President Barack Obama. Why would we expect otherwise? In 2008, Obama was the biggest political personality in a generation. His performance in his first two years in office — and, in particular, whether he has been able to meet the lofty expectations — was always going to be the focus of the 2010 midterm elections. The only folks in the country who apparently did not know this were the occupants of the West Wing. Today Republicans will gain control of the House with a net gain of 60 - 70 seats and narrowly take a 51-seat majority in the Senate in an historic political blowout.
According to Wikipedia, fantasy is a genre that uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme and/or setting. I bring this up because we’ve been hearing quite a bit about a “Democratic surge” lately, and this is a quintessential example of political fantasy. While there has been some tightening in several races — a result of core Democratic voters returning to the fold that is typical as an Election Day approaches — the “surge” is a complete fabrication, fed and encouraged by a mainstream media searching for an interesting plotline for this election.
For the past few weeks, the White House has been trying to make the argument that the country’s angry electorate is almost entirely mad about a) the economy and b) the administration’s poor performance in “marketing” (the president’s words) its agenda. This isn’t new: just about every underperforming administration — and this includes Republican administrations — blames voter disapproval on an inability to “sell” its agenda. They’re wrong almost every time. The president and his party are in trouble because voters have examined their legislative record and have, for the most part, rejected it. President Obama’s policies are an albatross around the neck of the Democratic Party and, as a result, Congressional Democrats will probably suffer a historic defeat on November 2nd.
During the last 14 days the White House and President Obama have gone on the attack, and their strategy is pretty simple: “Let’s acknowledge the voter anger and make sure it gets funneled toward something else.” Thus we have seen political attacks on just about everyone — and everything — out there. The problem, though, is that voters aren’t angry with Karl Rove, John Boehner, the Chamber of Commerce or even the “undisclosed financing” of elections. Voters are angry about the economy and they have two devastating perceptions of this administration: voters think it is incompetent and that it has overreached over the past two years. An even bigger problem for the White House is that voters may have already tuned the president out; virtually every possible metric used to evaluate the outcome of the midterm elections suggest a massive GOP victory. So let’s just come out and say it: there is no reason to think that Republicans will do any worse than 1994 (when they picked up 54 seats) and there is plenty of data to suggest that the it will, in fact, be a better year for the GOP. Our projection — based on all current available data — is that the GOP will gain between 60 and 70 House seats in November.
The race is on. No, I’m not referring to the one between Republicans and Democrats; instead, I’m talking about the race between pollsters and media organizations to project this November’s GOP margin of victory. There have been some pretty smart analyses produced over the last several weeks, including ones by Cook, Rothenberg, RealClearPolitics, FiveThirtyEight and, most recently, the vaunted NBC political unit with its Voter Confidence Index.
The political pendulum has swung far toward the Republicans, and at this point there is almost nothing that Democrats and the president can do to alter the overall course of the midterm elections. Republicans will win the House — and quite possibly the Senate — on November 2nd. Democrats had a politically devastating summer that is now stretching into the fall. Politicos talk about campaigns “winning” the day or the week; well, Democrats have “lost” the last seven months.
As we enter the summer’s home stretch and try to relax by the beach and read a book, the headlines over the weekend were relentless: we had Chelsea Cinton’s wedding, the apparent over-use of dispersants by BP in the Gulf, more Wikileaks fallout, Rangel’s 13 ethics violations and the Netherlands quitting the war in Afghanistan all interrupting our holiday. But under the radar screen, each political party has been carefully calibrating their fall strategy to keep or capture Congress. While specific tactics are not yet in place, Republicans and Democrats will spend the rest of August trial-ballooning campaign messages to see what sticks. In a year in which the status quo and politicians in general will be anathema to voters, it remains to be seen how receptive they will be to blatant political messages of any kind. Polling data confirms this, and suggests that voters will be extremely skeptical of what they consider to be typical “political” rhetoric. So let’s take a look at each party’s current message track.
As of early this morning, the oil leak in the Gulf appears to have been plugged and the White House is hoping that the president’s political hemorrhaging has been simultaneously cauterized.
The list of crises facing the White House today is lengthy and weighty: the Gulf oil spill, high domestic unemployment combined with an unstable economic situation in Europe, a cultural divide on the issue of immigration, and continuing efforts to stabilize Iraq and win in Afghanistan, just to name a few. Today, we are likely to get a very poor jobs report after five consecutive months of job growth. Will the jobs report be seen as the beginning of a double dip recession?
It has been 62 days since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and there is no end in sight to the disastrous oil leak. The Fish and Wildlife Service has collected about 2,000 dead birds and sea turtles and dozens of marine mammals, including a dead sperm whale. As the oil approaches more Gulf shores, the disaster will become more palpable, and voters will become angrier. But that’s not even the biggest challenge for the Obama administration. While concerns over the spill and offshore drilling have grown tremendously, the biggest political issues the White House faces are the economy and job creation.
For myriad reasons, the last 48 hours in the Gulf have dealt a devastating blow to the political fortunes of the Obama administration. The impact of recent events in that region will certainly be felt in November and perhaps even in 2012. And while the Israeli raid on ships carrying Palestinian activists is getting some attention, the spill is still the biggest story in America this morning.
The phrase “angry voters” is redundant in 2010, and we will likely see this on display today in three states. Our sense is that after today there will be a large number of congressional incumbents who will be wishing that they had chosen to retire in 2010.
Election Monitor: Looking ahead to November, here’s how issues are shifting to affect the fall elections
It is our hope that this statement will be met with a bit of thankfulness: We are not going to predict the number of seats the Democrats will lose in November, nor are we going to give you the magical formula for making that prediction. We can’t because there isn’t one. What we can say is that voters are angry and that is usually a bad sign for the party in power.