Here’s a shocker. Judging by this morning’s top line polling data, almost nothing in the presidential race has changed since mid-January.
Think of it.
The first three-day Rasmussen head-to-head tracking poll in 2012 (taken January 19-21) found 46 percent of voters supporting President Obama to 43 percent supporting Governor Romney, a three-point spread.
In Rasmussen’s most recent May 18-20 poll, 47 percent favored the president, 44 percent the governor, also a three-point spread – zero change in four months.
I am not saying that Mr. Obama has been ahead throughout. Since March 1st, the race’s lead position has switched sixteen times. Today the president is ahead. Last week Mr. Romney was. But almost all this movement has been within polling’s margin of error.
But even if nothing has changed, signs are that everything is in the process of changing.
It is classic campaign strategy to lock up your base early. That’s what the White House has been up to for several months now. Take the “war on women,” the Obama campaign’s charge that Republicans don’t care about the concerns of female voters. It is not often that a presidential campaign theme backfires. For the most part, messaging at this level is not left to chance. Nothing gets said that hasn’t been tested thirty different ways.
So it’s a surprise that polls are suggesting that the “war on women” theme may have weakened the Democrat’s hold on the women’s vote. According to this morning’s Gallup tracking poll, the president is now trailing among non-minority women overall, receiving support from 42 percent as against 50 percent for Governor Romney.
A clue as to why appeared on Sunday in, of all places, in The New York Times. In an op-ed (see http://tinyurl.com/d72fslw), Campbell Brown, former news anchor for CNN and NBC (and wife, she noted, of a Romney advisor), wrote with dismay of the president’s “paternalistic tone” in talking to women. The White House’s harping on contraceptives and abortion – the anchor of the “war on women” theme — has gone too far, Brown said. When she asked women she knew, she reported, “if contraception or abortion might be a major factor in their decision about this election,” all laughed.
Campbell concluded, “Most women don’t want to be patted on the head and treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talents and skills.”
The administration’s “war on the middle class” theme – as in, the Republicans are waging a “war on the middle class” – isn’t faring much better.
We’ve all seen the Obama campaign using Mr. Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital to brand the former governor king of the one percent, meaning of the very wealthy against whom the Occupy Wall Street crowd railed.
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but identifying himself with Occupy Wall Street was among the president’s least astute moves of the year. With their interminable squatting in public parks and sanctimonious agenda of entitlement, the occupiers have disgusted more and more Americans as the year has progressed. By rioting at the NATO summit in Chicago this week, they seem determined to turn themselves into another kind of one percent, uniting 99 percent of the country in revulsion against them and their ways.
Over the weekend, the administration’s effort to turn the spotlight on Romney’s business career backfired badly in another way, as Newark, New Jersey’s widely admired mayor and Obama spokesman Cory Booker labeled the attacks on Bain Capital and the private equity industry “nauseating.” Following an apparent White House tongue lashing, Booker reversed himself only to have another popular African-American Democrat, former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., announce he agreed with “the substance” of Booker’s initial remarks, adding he “would not have backed down.”
But over the next few months, the recent development that may most minimize the force of the White House’s “war on the middle class” theme has been the publication of a groundbreaking academic study.
The authors are a team of Cornell and Indiana university economists who have spent years digging into individual and household income statistics. They have found that the administration’s portrait of stagnation for the middle versus soaring splendor for the rich rests on incomplete income data. It fails to account for family and household arrangements, non-cash benefits and income transfers and the impact of ever changing tax law. Rather than stagnating, they discovered, the income of median American households rose a healthy 36.7 percent between 1979 and 2007. Inequality of incomes, they reported, “hasn’t increased very much since 1993.” (see http://tinyurl.com/bps9qsn)
Here is a truth of America politics: It is almost impossible for a candidacy to survive the collapse of the factual and moral case on which it rests.
So nothing has changed since January, except, perhaps, everything.