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“A Very Different Dynamic”: The Difference Between Presidential Pride And Embarrassment

At this point in the 2008 presidential race, a relatively crowded field of national Republican candidates was confronted with an unyielding reality: their party’s two-term president was deeply unpopular. According to Gallup, as of mid-October 2007, then-President George W. Bush’s approval rating was a woeful 32% – about 14 points lower than President Obama’s standing now.

And so, GOP candidates were pretty cautious about their associations with the flailing Bush/Cheney administration. The very last thing Republican presidential hopefuls wanted was to be perceived as offering Bush’s “third term.”

Fast forward eight years. Another two-term president is nearing the end of his tenure, but note what happened in last night’s debate when Anderson Cooper offered Hillary Clinton a chance to distance herself from President Obama. From the transcript:

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, how would you not be a third term of President Obama?

 CLINTON: Well, I think that’s pretty obvious. I think being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had up until this point, including President Obama.

 COOPER: Is there a policy difference?

 CLINTON: Well, there’s a lot that I would like to do to build on the successes of President Obama, but also, as I’m laying out, to go beyond.

The response didn’t cause much of a stir, but it was a pretty extraordinary answer given the political world’s general assumptions about Obama, his standing, and the public’s appetite for an entirely different policy agenda.

Given a chance to distance herself from the president – Clinton’s former rival – the Democratic frontrunner made no effort whatsoever to play along.

She wasn’t the only one. Vox had a good piece on this:

The president’s name was invoked 21 times – and largely by Hillary Clinton. She referred to him 13 times, usually in a positive manner, talking about the things “President Obama and I” did. When Lincoln Chafee questioned her judgment because she voted for the Iraq War, she said, “I recall very well being on a debate stage, I think, about 25 times with then-Senator Obama, debating this very issue. After the election, he asked me to become secretary of state.” […]

 Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb referred to Obama twice, Martin O’Malley referred to him three times, and Chafee did once. Words like “admiration,” “affection,” and “support” were thrown around, but Clinton drove home the point that she worked, arm in arm, with the sitting president, who is very popular among Democrats.

That last point is of particular interest. I think the general media narrative is that President Obama is unpopular. I also think that narrative is wrong – Obama is arguably the nation’s most well-liked politician, and among Democrats, his support is generally between 80% and 90%.

Republicans wanted nothing to do with Bush towards the end of his presidency, but we’re looking at a very different dynamic, at least for now, with Democrats in the 2016 race.

It’ll be especially interesting to see how this plays out next year as Election Day approaches. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, think about the national surrogates who’ll be able to hit the trail on her behalf: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, in addition to Clinton and her running mate.

The GOP nominee will have … who? George W. Bush probably won’t be headlining many rallies. So the nominee might turn to John McCain? Mitt Romney? Other national figures who lost major races?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 14, 2015

October 15, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, George W Bush, President Obama | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Campaigns Are Like Decathlons”: Romney’s Debate Performance Will Light Fire Under Obama Supporters

A mutual friend told me in 2007 that Barack Obama believed campaigns are more like decathlons than single event contests. In this scenario a candidate doesn’t have to win every event, but has to do well enough for their strong performances to carry them over the top. If that is true Barack Obama did fine in his first presidential debate with Mitt Romney, but he didn’t win. In the long run Romney’s strong performance may be just what Democratic troops need to light a fire under them to volunteer even more for campaign field efforts where the Obama campaign is surely superior.

The president seemed overcoached in his first debate. Maybe the instruction was to stay warm, communicate the facts, and keep from letting any disdain for Romney seep through. If so, that worked, but Barack Obama didn’t give the audience enough energy. He let opportunities to challenge Romney slide by. At one point Romney claimed to be unaware of tax advantages for offshoring plants and lamented not knowing about them. “Maybe I need a better accountant,” he said. That was a great opportunity for President Obama to talk about Romney’s business record offshoring jobs or tax strategies. The president looked at his opponent with a knowing smile as if he knew there was fresh meat on the ground but chose not to pounce.

Despite Mitt Romney lying about his economic plans, the Republican will get a second look from voters this week. Romney was aggressive and he needed to be. Donors who were looking for the exits will probably settle back down. The media loves a horse race, and Romney just excited the Fourth Estate too. Good for him, but maybe good for Democrats too.

As polls got better recently, the whiff of overconfidence began to seep into Democratic groupthink. I plead guilty myself. For Democratic activists who spend a lot of time reading favorable articles about the president and watching TV shows that tend to take his side discounting Mitt Romney was becoming a favorite past time. Romney’s awkwardness and mistakes made it easy. But the likelihood of a Democratic blowout is remote. The demographic and ideological math just doesn’t support it. Democrats will have to gut out this Election Day with sweat and shoe leather just like the last one and the scare we got last night probably helps more than it hurts.

 

By: Jamal Simmons, U.S. News and World Report, Debate Club, October 4, 2012

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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