Axelrod: The base will vote in 2012

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s chief 2012 political adviser says the memory of George W. Bush will revive the president’s unenthusiastic base and boost turnout in the 2012 election.

“Trickle down, deregulation … The same mantra we heard in the last decade that led up to this problem [is what] we’re hearing again,” David Axelrod told ABC’s Jake Tapper during a Sunday interview. “I think that this is such a profound choice that the president’s supporters and independent voters and people across this country will rally, because the future will be determined by this [election] debate and the path we take.”

Any fall-off in turnout could be lethal to Obama’s chances in 2012, partly because he won a few states in 2008 by narrow margins —  North Carolina, for example — but also because polls show his support slumping among swing voters.

On several occasions, Obama has recognized that his base is not as excited as it was in 2008. On May 19, for example, he told donors that the 2012 “campaign is not going to feel exactly the same. It’s not going to be as fresh and new and trendy.” In August, he told another group of donors that “I’m not going to be able to mobilize the country [in 2012] around some of the tough, necessary choices that need to be made unless we’ve got the kind of grassroots support at every level that you guys so vividly displayed” in 2008.

Tapper’s question to Axelrod was prompted by criticism from Michael Moore, the left-wing filmmaker who says that Obama’s campaign-trail strategy is alienating liberal supporters.

The president’s recent moves are making the president’s supporters “profoundly disappointed … each time the president moves to the right, he picks up no votes and loses many,” Moore said in a statement relayed by Tapper to Axelrod. The TV host then asked Axelrod a question drafted by Moore, “Do you cynically believe that because these people have nowhere else to go, they’ll end up voting for Obama?”

Axelrod answered by saying that Republicans oppose the president’s agenda of funding “the investments that can grow our economy and, most importantly … create good middle-class jobs in the future on which people can raise their families.” (RELATED: NYT’s Friedman: Way too soon to tell if media failed to vet Obama the candidate)

“That’s what education is about. That’s what research and development to create new technologies and advance manufacturing is about. That’s what the infrastructure — that’s what roads and bridges and repairs that put people to work now,” is about, he said. But “all of these things are part and parcel of a strategy that is completely opposed by the other side, who want to go back to the same trickle-down, deregulation.”

Axelrod’s argument did not win him plaudits on liberal blogs, where the commenters largely dismissed Axelrod’s response.

A commentator named ‘md8800’ on Moore’s website, for instance, responded by saying, “I know what I’m doing in 2012 … if by then we don’t have a full scale revolution in the making … I will be moving to another country.”

At Rawstory.com, ‘taser_this’ got 8 ‘likes’ after complaining that “I am very torn whether I shall vote for him, or not vote … I resent being trapped in such a way. I think there is a very real issue of disillusioned prior supporters not being there for him.”

For several months, the president has used Axelrod’s argument at many venues to woo swing-voters. But his national overall approval rating has dipped to 39 percent in Gallup’s polls, and his support is also falling in critical swing states, including Pennsylvania. An Aug. 19 Muhlenberg College poll pegged his approval among voters at only 35 percent, even though he won 55 percent of the state’s vote in 2008.

Obama has maintained high support among some important groups that respond to liberal arguments, including gays and environmentalists.

But he’s also losing some support in communities where liberal policies should help him win lopsided margins to overcome his shortfall among white-voters.

For example, his approval among the must-win Hispanic communities has tumbled from 85 percent in 2009 to 49 percent according to Gallup. He’s still got overwhelming support in the African-American community, but there’s a widespread dismay at the very high unemployment numbers — at least 16 percent — among African Americans, and a growing chorus of complaints from significant politicians, such as California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters. These complaints are echoed by some notable African-American critics, such as TV-host Tavis Smiley and academic Cornel West.

“My sense is many African Americans want Obama to do better, particularly in the area of jobs. But they are not ready to trade him in just yet,” African-American columnist Eugene Kane wrote, summing up the black community’s view of Obama in an Aug. 20 column in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel newspaper.