Wishful liberals and Chicken Little conservatives who watch the weekly fluctuations in the presidential polls have concluded that President Obama is a shoo-in for re-election. They point out that Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, can’t connect with women, has a large likability gap and is slightly behind Obama in most national polls as well as in the key swing states of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
The despair of faint-hearted conservatives deepens when they contemplate President Obama’s disastrous performance in office. His record of fiscally reckless extremism is unparalleled in American history. In three short years, federal spending as a percentage of GDP has climbed from 20% to 24% while the national debt has exploded from $10 trillion to $15.5 trillion. By the end of his term, Obama will have increased the national debt by a staggering 67%.
Add to this record President Obama’s continual disrespect for the Constitution, his unceasing regulatory attacks on free enterprise and small businesses, his rhetoric of class warfare, his deceptive demagoguery and his spendthrift economic policies that have fattened the wallets of his political cronies but created so few jobs that millions of Americans have simply dropped out of the labor force, and many conservatives can offer only one explanation for Obama’s current lead in the polls.
America, they conclude, must have lost its can-do spirit of rugged individualism and replaced it with what Governor Chris Christie recently called an attitude of “paternalistic entitlement” championed by a coalition of political elites, acolytes in the mainstream media, crony capitalists and an ever-growing dependency class.
Conservatives across the nation should be of good cheer, however. The United States remains a center-right nation. This November, voters will choose common sense over fiscally reckless extremism in what will be a landslide conservative victory. Republicans will retain the House, gain the Senate and win back the presidency with a 2-to-1 Electoral College margin.
The most recent Rasmussen poll shows Mitt Romney ahead of President Obama, 48% to 44%. Obama’s support has softened significantly since 2008, and opposition continues to grow on all sides. In that election, Obama defeated John McCain by a 53% to 46% margin in the popular vote. Since then, as the Rasmussen poll demonstrates, Obama has lost the support of 9% of the voting population. Much of that loss is permanent. Defectors include disappointed voters under 30 who supported him by a 2-to-1 margin in 2008 but can’t find a job in today’s lackluster economy, disaffected Catholics turned off by his high-handed tactics and virtually every small business person in the country, to say nothing of disillusioned Democrats opposed to his individual healthcare mandate.
But the polls are missing one key ingredient: the intensity of feeling and the level of determination among the 28% of American adults (66 million people) who consider themselves part of the tea party or are supportive of it. To these people, 2012 is not “just another election.” It is the defining political battle of our lifetime.
Most of these 66 million tea partiers will vote in November. But they will do much more than vote. They will also make unprecedented personal sacrifices in time and money to help get out the vote. To a person, these 66 million Americans believe that if Barack Obama is re-elected, the constitutional republic as we know it will be destroyed. They are determined not to let this happen on their watch.
Reports that the tea party movement has lost steam are entirely the creation of a mainstream media that wants the movement to go away. Recent polls show that support for the movement is higher today than it was two years ago, in the spring of 2010. The tactics of this large and growing group have evolved from the high-profile rallies of 2009-2010 to a more organized and focused national get-out-the-vote effort. Every night, the country is honeycombed with a series of local and regional conference calls among the local leaders of this dedicated group. New tea party groups — estimated at around 3,000 at the start of the year — are being formed at an accelerating rate. These new groups are smaller, more localized and highly focused on one objective: getting out the vote in November.
A national poll, of course, is not all that helpful in predicting presidential election outcomes, which are decided based on the results of 51 separate electoral contests (the 50 states plus the District of Columbia). When the 9% President Obama has lost across the board is subtracted from his 2008 results in each state, the dimensions of the coming conservative landslide become apparent.
Obama can count on winning only the 10 states he won with more than 60% in 2008 — California, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Illinois. Add the three Electoral College votes from the District of Columbia, and President Obama has only 146 Electoral College votes to Romney’s 392.
To these 10 “certain” Obama states, add four “blue” states that Obama won in 2008 with 56% to 57% of the vote — Washington, Maine, Oregon and New Jersey — and Obama’s electoral count edges up to only 186, barely half of the 352 Electoral College votes Romney will receive from the other 36 states where Obama received 57% or less of the vote in 2008. But even these four states aren’t guaranteed. All four of them have active and engaged local tea parties, and New Jersey has Chris Christie, the popular governor and big Romney backer.
The only hope Democrats have of narrowing the gap is to win the ground battle. In that effort they have several advantages over the tea party movement. Unions and left-wing organizations will spend millions of dollars to pay people to get out the vote this fall. Meanwhile, the Republican Party’s get-out-the vote efforts will be laughably anemic.
Only the tea party has the enthusiasm and manpower to get out the vote for Mitt Romney, but it’s financed by the spare change found in the couches of local leaders. Nonetheless, as the critical role it played in the 2011 Republican takeover of the Virginia State Senate proved, the tea party is very effective.
The big question is whether wealthy conservative donors will wake up to face the political realities and help local and regional tea party groups finance get-out-the-vote efforts. To date, they have ignored the tea party, giving their donations instead to Washington-based organizations that are more interested in building their own brands than in building effective local get-out-the-vote capabilities.
If local grassroots activists are forced to finance their get-out-the-vote efforts from the spare change in their couches, Obama could pick up six additional states where he won between 54% and 57% of the vote in 2008 — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico. This would give Romney a solid, but not spectacular, 296-242 Electoral College victory.
But conservatives around the country should take heart because that’s an unlikely scenario. As we’re beginning to see, conservative donors are finally realizing that the scope of the conservative victory in November will be determined by the level of financial support they provide to local grassroots conservatives. They understand that when it comes to political return on investment, local tea party groups provide the biggest bang for the buck.
Michael Patrick Leahy is the editor of the “Voices of the Tea Party” e-book series and co-founder of Top Conservatives on Twitter and ElectionDayTeaParty.com .His new book, “Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement,” was published by Broadside Books in March 2012. He can be reached on Twitter at @michaelpleahy.