Morning Jay: Obama’s Problem With His Base
6:20 AM, Jun 12, 2012 • By JAY COST
Thus, we can conclude that, if the independent vote holds roughly where it has been for the last two years, Obama will need that 2008 Democratic turnout edge just to keep the race a toss-up.
How will the Democratic base perform in November? It is impossible to say for sure, but there is solid evidence that points to trouble on the left flank.
The first piece of evidence is the Rasmussen poll. Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media have basically shut Rasmussen out of the conversation, simply because they do not like its results. But the Rasmussen poll’s historical results are very solid, especially when it comes to measuring the partisan tilt of the country. It called turnout on the nose in 2008 – forecasting the Democrats with a 7-point edge – and was very close in 2004 – calling for a Democratic edge of just 1.5 points (the final result that year was an even split between the two sides).
For the last 18 months, Rasmussen has typically found the Republicans with an edge in party identification. This comports well with its “Presidential Approval Index,” which tracks the level of intensity among those who approve and those who disapprove of President Obama’s time in office. Rasmussen consistently finds the strong disapprovers outnumbering the strong approvers by 10 to 20 points.
The second piece of evidence is the Wisconsin recall vote. The GOP had a money edge (although the size of it was much less than what liberal pundits are now claiming), but the Democratic base had been directly attacked by Scott Walker’s reforms. So, we should have expected Democratic turnout to maintain itself at its historical levels.
But that is not what happened. In fact, in Democratic-leaning Wisconsin, Republican voters actually outnumbered Democrats, something we have only seen previously in lower turnout midterm elections:
All of this suggests that it is the Republican base vote that is more energized than its Democratic counterpart, at least at the moment. Hence Team Obama's continued efforts to curry favor with the vast array of interests that comprise the core Democratic vote.
If that holds up over the next five months, and independents do not warm up to the president, Obama is going to lose. It won't be a 1980- or 1984-style blowout, but it will look similar to what we saw in 1988 and 2008. That's what happens with a lukewarm party base and broad opposition from independent voters.
Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.