Can things get any worse for the Obama-Biden ticket?
Two weeks ago the president debates the first capable opponent of his career and comes off as an empty suit. One week ago the vice president puts on a clownish performance in his matchup with Congressman Paul Ryan.
Then the polls tanked. On Saturday this week, the Real Clear Politics average of polls showed Romney-Ryan up by 1.3 percentage points. Exactly two weeks earlier, it had Obama-Biden ahead by 4.3 percentage points, a move of 5.6 points against the Democratic ticket in fourteen days
Some believe the shift wasn’t just because of the two debates. The meltdown in Libya contributed. It is also possible that the supposedly stellar but actually disturbing recent job numbers did, too.
Remember Joe Biden’s line during the Democratic National Convention? We should reelect the president and him, because “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” That sentence may be the key to the White House’s otherwise inexplicable denial over more than two weeks that the attack on the Libyan consulate and the murder of the ambassador were acts of terrorism.
The administration has told us it is a stellar steward of our national security. Exhibit one has been its campaign of assassination against al Qaeda’s leadership. Some critics, such as former George W. Bush chief speechwriter and Washington Post online columnist Marc Theissen, have argued that the Predator drone strike strategy has gone too far. Many of the targets should be captured rather than killed, Theissen has said, for their intelligence value. Each one who goes to his deserved reward takes with him extensive knowledge of al Qaeda, its plans and operations. Theissen is close to the defense and intelligence communities. On these matters, his columns have very likely reflected concerns felt throughout the national security establishment.
Perhaps because of lost intelligence, the demonstrations and attacks caught the administration completely by surprise. Even as the assault on the consulate progressed, a mob before our embassy in Cairo chanted ““Obama, Obama, we are all Osama.” Within days, protests were raging outside more than a dozen U.S. embassies in the Middle East, North Africa and heavily Muslim areas farther east. To acknowledge that these actions might have been at least in part an al Qaeda show of strength coinciding with the attacks of eleven years ago would have devastated a major part of the administration’s case for reelection.
But even as their national security case for reelection showed wobbly legs, the administration’s “General Motors is alive” case has faltered, too. The administration has been trying to inflate the recent jobs numbers into an economic revival. But if most UAW employees at GM still have work and fully funded pensions (the administration did not protect members of other unions), an appalling number of Americans have not fared so well. Only 63.6 percent of adults are working today, compared to 65.7 percent on the day the president took office. And thanks to Obamacare, reports are surfacing that many employers are reducing their full-time labor forces to reduce their exposure to the new laws mandates and penalties.
So recent movement in presidential polls may have had to do with the news as well as the debates.
But there can be no doubt that the debates catalyzed a change in opinion almost unprecedented in American politics. Three weeks ago, even Republicans were writing the Romney campaign’s obituaries. Now even Democrats are writing post-mortems for their candidate.
Here is a warning. Since March, the lead in the Rasmussen daily tracking poll – perhaps the country’s most reliable poll – has switched more than thirty times. It could happen again.
Tomorrow night will, of course, be a test. The president has said he was “too polite” last time. I say that if that is what he believes he did wrong in the first debate and he plans to channel his inner Biden in this one, bring it on. Rage and rudeness are exactly what the American people detest in candidates.
That does not sound like a warning, I know. And it is true that a president who once used a TelePrompter to address school children may not have it in him to deliver a formidable performance in the give and take of a debate.
But in the instability of this race and the president’s clearly formidable reelection machinery, Yogi Berra’s warning about baseball applies. It isn’t over ‘til it’s over.