Public Policy Polling in the swing state of Ohio found a very confused electorate, as reported by Tom Jensen on 6 July. Undecideds in the Ohio Senate race were 22 percent of voters. They appeared to be “mad at both the Democrats and Republicans in Washington—- and (their) undecided status may be a reflection of their not knowing who they should be madder at.”
To begin with, 52 percent of the undecideds in the Senate race “disapprove of President Obama,” compared with 35 percent who said they liked the job he is doing. As for the Democrats in Congress, only 26 percent approved the job they were doing. On the other hand, they truly despised Congressional Republicans: a bare 10 percent liked the job they were doing and a resounding 61 percent disapproved. The voters may be unhappy with President Obama, but they are a whole lot unhappier with the Republican minority. So the anti-incumbent fervor that would normally rise up to throw the bums out is, well, confused. Public Policy Polling was ranked by The Wall Street Journal in November 2008 as one of the very best polling outfits when it came to swing states.
On the face of it, without examining the entire survey, my take on this information is two fold: First, the undecideds are, like a lot of us, remembering the hope of turning over a new leaf, rolling back the misadventures of Bush, plus the promises of progressive reforms and a revived economy, all accomplished with a “change of tone” in Washington—- but they are dismayed and disappointed at the reality after 18 months of a new administration. Second, they may be blaming Obama for what they see as a lack of progress in fulfilling the promise of a changed tone, of reforms and a re-charged economy, but they also blame Congressional Republicans even more. Moreover, I do not think the undecided voters in Ohio are an anomaly. I believe that many voters are in a similar quandary, some even in the reddest of red states.
On this basis, it strikes me that Democrats need to come roaring out of the gate with their own narrative before the Republicans nail down their twisted framing of the themes for the election. To begin with, remind voters what Democrats and Obama promised, and, with endless repetition, pin the Republicans with full blame for both the rancor and lack of progress. So voters dislike the continued partisanship and angry obstruction? Show them how Obama made every effort to accommodate Republicans, and was continually frustrated. Remind them who always said “No!” even when, in previous Congresses the Republicans themselves had tried to do the exact same thing now being pushed by Democrats. Just about everything Republicans cried about in the health care bill is probably there because they wanted it, or had themselves proposed it earlier. Remind the voters that the bailout was instituted by Bush and the Republicans before Obama was inaugurated. Tie Republicans firmly to corrupt big business and Wall Street.
If voters want to see a better tone in Washington and more across-the-aisle legislation that deals with the economy sensibly, then they need to slap down the Republicans, and elect Democrats who can get the job done. Republicans said they wanted the elected President of America to fail, and they did everything they could to create failure, never mind how much it hurt America and Americans. They put themselves and their politics above the good of the country. America is still in trouble, and we need a strong unity government to get things done.
Meanwhile, I believe that many of Mr Obama’s problems have arisen exactly because he bent over backwards to curry favor with the very ones who wanted him to fail, and ended up betraying his own progressive promises and principles. He needs to get rid of some of those nasty Free Market “advisers” who talked him into the betrayals (such as Lawrence Summers, for example). Tell the public what is needed to create a stronger recovery: keep priming the pump of the economy, even if it means adding a bit more to the deficit, and how that is the indirect but most effective way to bring down the deficit without throwing us back into an even deeper recession. Level with them, over and over: Republicans had eight years to try out their ideas, and see how it worked out: two wars, torture as national policy, erosion of our civil liberties, a severe crash in the economy, our jobs sent overseas, wages stagnant, a growing divide between super rich and everybody else, and a ballooning deficit. That is how Republicans govern. It’s time to give the Democrats a real chance to clean up the Republican mess by throwing out every Republican in office everywhere. Republicans want America to fail, so get rid of ’em.