By Dave Andrusko
While a lot of attention was understandably paid to last night’s debate among Republican presidential candidates, more important was a poll released by Third Way, a group with strong ties to the Obama Administration.
Reuters described the findings as “Obama faces skepticism from swing voters.” USA Today headlined the poll, “Obama trails fight for moderates.” What Third Way did was clever: to focus on voters in 12 battleground states that voted for Obama in 2008 but for Republican candidates in the 2010 (“switchers”).
Of this subset, 25% said they would vote for the GOP presidential nominee; 16% definitely for Obama; and 59% said they had no definite commitment.
“The problem,” Third Way vice president for policy Jim Kessler told USA Today, “is that [the 59%] don’t see Obama and Democrats in their ideological neighborhood.” He added, “But we feel it’s possible for Democrats to move themselves along the continuum to a center direction.”
Third Way’s self-assigned task was to offer policy prescriptions to Obama how to win back the 59%, described as “persuadable switchers.”
The prescription is unsurprising: paint the GOP nominee (whoever he or she might be) as beholden to “extremists”—thus allowing Democrats to occupy the political center– and to offer a formula for economic growth which will be described as centrist.
But the former is, at best, unconvincing, and, in the latter case, obviously wrongheaded. The 59% who voted for Obama in 2008 and a Republican in 2010 “say the president’s party is more liberal than they are and that their political views align more closely with Republicans,” according to Aamer Madhani of USA Today. Not only is that not a new perception, the public has considered not just the President’s party but Obama himself to be more liberal than they are. Slinging mud at the Republican is unlikely to change that view.
Second, the public is not buying the “centrist” economic policy prescription.
“Obama is pushing a $450 billion job-creation bill in an effort to boost the economy and drive down the 9.1 percent unemployment rate as he faces low approval ratings and deep economic unease among voters,” Madhani writes. But the problem is “Swing voters do not agree with this view, the poll found,” Madhani explains. “Half of those surveyed said reducing the deficit or scaling back regulations would be the most effective way to create jobs, while only 16 percent said that increased spending on construction and innovation would be the best approach.”
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