Monday, January 25, 2010

Bush Bashing Not Working for Obama

Today's Politico column by Jonathan Martin reviews the take of some Democrat analysts on why bashing President Bush isn't working as a political argument.

Despite the decades of success Democrats had in the 20th century of running against Herbert Hoover, the old strategy has bottomed out in less than a year in the 21st century.
Howard Wolfson, a senior official on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and veteran Democratic communications guru, noted that his party was able to run against Republican Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era presidency for 30 years.

“That doesn’t seem to be the case here,” he said.
Though running against Bush instead of the actual Republican candidate was successful in 2008, the 2009 and early 2010 elections haven't worked out.

Martin's Democratic analysts point to various factors. One of the most interesting is the democratization of news access and rising political literacy of the voters.
[Joel Benenson:]"'You’ve got a 24/7 news cycle, conflict- and entertainment-driven [content] substituting for political coverage on cable TV and a very different country geographically and technologically,' said the pollster. 'The president dominated the media more when Roosevelt took office than when Obama did. Now, any congressman can get on TV on the subject of the day.'"
[emphasis added]
Then there's the fact that the Democrats and the Obama administration have had control of Congress and the Presidency for more than a year.
"'This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,' wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. 'Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.'"
. . .
"'Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,' explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin."
Not mentioned is the rising popularity of George Bush as Americans compare him with Barack Obama. Polling in December 2009 showed that while 50% (down from 63% a year ago) of voters preferred having Obama as president instead of Bush, 44% (up from 29% a year ago) would have liked a return to Bush. Not good news for the Bush bashing strategy.

Then there are policy and practical issues.

- Last month Bush's war in Iraq had zero U.S. casualties while Obama's war in Afghanistan is heating up with twice as many U.S. casualties in Afghanistan (312) than U.S. casualties in Iraq (150) in 2009.

- In the 7-1/2 years after 9/11 there were zero terrorist attacks carried out in the U.S. Less than a year after Obama took office there have been two (maybe three).

- Though the stock market is up from it's lowest rate under Bush (7,552 on 11/20/08 vs. 10,197 today), the unemployment rate has continued to worsen under Obama (Bush's 7.7% for January 2009 vs. Obama's 10% to date--increasing every month in 2009 except for November and December where it held at 10%). Interesting that both rates went up about the same: Dow Jones increased from 7.5 to 10.1 the unemployment rate went up from 7.7 to 10.0. Unfortunately, unemployment impacts people more than the Dow Jones average.

- Debt. Bush increased the national debt 4.5 trillion dollars in eight years (from 6 trillion to 10.5 trillon dollars). Obama has increased it another 1.5 trillion dollars in one year ( to 12 trillion dollars).

Though the media doesn't do a good job of making those comparisons, people figure out at least some of them on their own.

That's also what happened in the late 1970's. People figured out that the presidency under Jimmy Carter needed improvement. They got improvement both economically and in the Cold War with Ronald Reagan.

Interesting that the Carter name still holds negative political power today as Hoover's did in the 1930's and 40's. That's why the comparison of Obama as a possible Carter still has some teeth whereas the negative power of comparing any Republican candidate to Bush is fading rapidly.

H/T Jennifer Rubin

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