"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nine Out of Ten American Voters Surveyed Agree:

It's rare during this time of increased partisanship to find the American electorate agreeing on anything, but this morning a new presidential preference poll from USA Today/Gallup reveals a surprising consensus among American voters. Granted, the headlines from the poll are likely to be about a modest bounce in support for Hillary Clinton and a shift among Democratic voters towards nominating the "most electable" general election candidate.

But buried deeper in the poll is an intriguing number: Nine out of ten voters today say it makes a real difference to them who is elected president. This represents a huge swing (of more than 30 points) compared to polling data from previous election cycles:

A. Does it make a real difference to you who is elected president, or not?

DATEYesNo No opinion
2007 Dec 14-1690100
2000 Mar 10-1260355
2000 Jan 7-1054379
1996 May 9-1257403
1992 Oct 23-2576222
1992 Sep 11-1566304
1992 Apr 20-2253434
1992 Feb 28-Mar 153425
1992 Jan 6-9603010

Only in the closing weeks of the 1992 general election campaign did more than 2/3 of voters share the sentiment. Perhaps this number is a confirmation of the view 2008 may be truly be a "change election."

I can offer up three possible explanations for this change:

1) It is an indictment of the Bush administration's failed policies which have adversely affected the daily lives of American families. Even the most casual voter understands the stakes in the 2008 presidential election.

2) It is a reflection of the increased partisanship that has become a fixture in American politics over the past fifteen years. As we've gone to our separate corners and divided ourselves further apart on the ideological spectrum, the stark differences in governing philosophies have increased the importance of who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

3) The Global War on Terror is more than a bumper sticker slogan. Perhaps 9/11 did change everything. Since the USA Today poll doesn't include data for the 2004 cycle, perhaps this shift happened during the last cycle. If this is the case, I'm afraid we may end up with a President Rudy.

Any other explanations?

TeamHillary on the Hawkeye Tightwire

A powerful force is at work when the liberal and conservative punditocracy opinion talking heads extol similar viewpoints simultaneously. An emerging consensus of the rarely aligned voices from the Left (EJ Dionne) and the Right (D. Brooks) provides additional narrative to the "TeamHillary is in Free-fall" and "The Clinton Coronation March Has Ended" storylines.

Brooks writes this morning about the underlying strength of the Obama candidacy - an "astonishingly" consistent, inner-driven man with a unique approach to modern American politics. He observes:

"Many of the best presidents in U.S. history had their character forged before they entered politics and carried to it a degree of self-possession and tranquillity that was impervious to the Sturm und Drang of White House life.

Obama is an inner-directed man in a profession filled with insecure outer-directed ones. He was forged by the process of discovering his own identity from the scattered facts of his childhood, a process that is described in finely observed detail in “Dreams From My Father.” Once he completed that process, he has been astonishingly constant."


"...Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. He does not lash out at perceived enemies, but is aloof from them. In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual."

Brooks argues Obama's post-partisan approach, his inner confidence and his powers of observation make him a powerful alternative to Clinton for Democratic primary voters.

In the WaPo, EJ Dionne concludes Hillary's downturn is due to multiple miscalculations: she doesn't grasp the "vision thing," is guilty of overlooking Iowa toward a general election campaign and her failure to understand Obama's appeal.

"Yet Clinton's difficulties owe to deeper flaws in her strategy. These include an early ambivalence about competing in Iowa; the failure to link her arguments about experience to more inspirational themes; and an underestimation of Obama, bred by his sluggish performance during the summer. She thus emphasized positions -- in favor of a tough Iran policy, for example -- potentially more helpful in a general election campaign than with a Democratic electorate."

According to Dionne, TeamHillary is frustrated by perceived unfair media coverage. They are unhappy Clinton is primarily blamed for the campaign's negative tone and Obama's policy proposals receive minimal media attention while his idealistic rhetoric receives glowing reviews.

TeamHillary's challenging balancing act: continue raising questions about Obama as a general election candidate without being viewed as attacking. Thus far, they've been somewhat unsuccessful and the task becomes more difficult now, the week before Christmas.

Who will benefit from the changed Democratic dynamic? I won't be surprised by a John Edwards Iowa victory.