Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why President Obama is a Liability AND an Asset in November, The Fake Ground Zero Issue

President Obama -- Popular Except Where He Is Popular
The national numbers on President Obama's approval are ugly. There is no other way to put it. Not George W. Bush in 2008 ugly. Not George H.W. Bush in 1992 ugly. But Bill Clinton in 1994 ugly, for sure.

The aggregate of the last month of polling is below. You see the President in a narrow range from about -2% to about -4% in his approve minus disapprove. This is indicative of a President who will have negative coattails with the general population come November.

The monthly numbers show a continued, slow decline. The President was negative for the first time in July, finishing at a negative 0.7% average, a 2.3% decline from June. With two thirds of August completed, he is on track for his worst numbers yet, at an aveage of -2.3%, a further 1.6% decline.

So is the President a liability for Democrats? With the general population, absolutely. In the GOP-leaning districts that Democrats won in 2006 and 2008, his national unpopularity certainly puts those seats in play. In swing states like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, the national mood certainly hurts Democrats.

But President Obama is hugely popular with the Democratic base. He can still raise huge fact, despite all the negative polling and national press, the DNC is still destroying the RNC in terms of fundraising, in part due to President Obama's ability to secure big donor checks and in part because of Republican disgust with Michael Steele and his frequently off-message remarks.

President Obama can also rally voters that don't typically turn out in large numbers in mid-terms, most specifically, African-American voters. The President still holds a greater than 80% approval rating with black voters and getting them to turn out in close races could tip the vast number of very close Senate and House races.

So what's the net of all this? Democrats are going to lose significant seats in both bodies in November, that is a certainty in my mind. There isn't time enough to turn the national mood around. But the post-Labor Day period where campaigns really kick off and how the Democrats best leverage the President will determine whether the result is a modest erosion or a blow out. Still way to early to call control of either body.

The "Mosque" Non-Issue
It must be a slow news month. Sure, Congress is in recess, but do we really want to spend more than a month debating the location of an Islamic cultural center in New York City?

Sure, passions run strong after 9/11 and rightly so. And there is no question that radical Islamic Jihadists were responsible for the attacks and that religion was at the very least, a strong contributing factor in motivating the attacks.

But let me run through the reasons why this is a ridiculous issue.

(1) There is no legal question to be decided
The group seeking to build the cultural center has a right to do so. Period. Even the most extreme voices on the right don't dispute this fact. There is nothing for the rest of us to decide.

(2) Islam isn't radical Islam any more than Catholicism is child molestation
Just because you have a religion that shares the same name and prophet as a group of radicals, doesn't make you a radical. There is absolutely zero tie between the builders of the community center and the attackers from 9/11.

(3) It's New York City, not Ground Zero
The proposed community center is two blocks from Ground Zero. How many churches, temples, etc. are located within that radius? A bunch.

(4) Nobody Cared Until They Did
This story has been around until December. Up until a month ago, nobody objected, including voices on the right.

Let me criticize the left a little on this don't have to be a racist or Islamophobe to a have a certain degree of inherent discomfort with "Mosques" after all we have learned about the trappings of radical Islam since 9/11. But the facts simply do not support this issue warranting any debate. It is an invented story, plain and simple.

Incidentally, President Obama was foolish to inject himself in the debate...and spineless for walking back his 100% correct remarks once he did.

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