Writing in the Los Angeles Times on October 25, Peter Nicholas framed the problem perfectly:
Now tack on a trio of state and local political races. With an off-year election fast approaching, Obama is stepping up his commitment to Democratic candidates in hopes that an infusion of campaign charisma might pump up turnout.Despite an all out effort in New Jersey and Virginia, with Obama in ads calling on voters to get "fired up once again" the collective yawn coming from his supporters must be a frightening silence drifting down the halls of the White House.
What the party is finding, though, is that the electricity of 2008 is tough to recapture.
Some Democratic candidates running for local office around the country call the phenomenon the "Obama hangover." It is proving tougher to recruit volunteers and get people to vote.
While exit polls in New Jersey and Virginia showed that 20% and 24% of voters in those respective states were motivated to vote in opposition to Obama, the bigger story here and the one which gives the best indication of where we are headed in 2010 and 2012 was the flip among independent voters away from the Democrats and the absence of younger and black voters who formed the "Obama surge"and helped him win a year earlier. Loss of both these groups spells disaster for Democrats.
In part, you can explain the falloff of Obama surge voters by the fact that many of these voters have little interest in state elections in what is regarded as an "off year." But there is more to it than that. There is a growing sense that Obama is not the man they thought he was.
Politico reviews the first year since Obama's election in 2008 with a piece entitled: 'Change has come' ... or has it? One of their observations: "Obama also has revealed himself to be an innately self-protective, constantly calibrating and, in some surprising ways, supremely conventional politician."
It's one thing to read something like that in the Politico, quite another thing to read it in the New York Times:
[Note: as a service to our worried Democrat friends, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" sung by the great Marlene Dietrich is provided for your listening pleasure as you read.]
In Iowa, Second Thoughts on ObamaPerhaps voters should have listened when President Bill Clinton called Obama's campaign "the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen." God knows we conservatives tried to warn Independent voters that Obama was just the same old liberal politician masquerading as a something new.
BY JEFF ZELENY
New York TimesNovember 2, 2009
WILLIAMSBURG, Iowa — Pauline McAreavy voted for President Obama. From the moment she first saw him two years ago, she was smitten by his speeches and sold on his promise of change. She switched parties to support him in the Iowa caucuses, donated money and opened her home to a pair of young campaign workers.
“I think it's going to take some work,” said Candi Schmieder, a 40-year-old resident of Marengo, Iowa, who says she still trusts the president.
But by the time she received a fund-raising letter last month from the Democratic National Committee, a sense of disappointment had set in. She returned the solicitation with a handwritten note, saying, “Until I see some progress and he lives up to his promises in Iowa, we will not give one penny.”
“I’m afraid I wasn’t realistic,” Ms. McAreavy, 76, a retired school nurse, said on a recent morning on the deck of her home here in east-central Iowa.
“I really thought there would be immediate change,” she said. “Sometimes the Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. But it’s politics as usual, and that’s what I voted against.”
One year after winning the election, Mr. Obama has seen his pledge to transcend partisanship in Washington give way to the hardened realities of office. A campaign for the history books, filled with a sky-high sense of possibility for Mr. Obama not just among legions of loyal Democrats but also among converts from outside the party, has descended to an unfamiliar plateau for a president whose political rise was as rapid as it was charmed.
Interviews with voters across Iowa offer a window into how the president’s standing has leveled off, especially among the independents and Republicans who contributed not just to his margin of victory in the caucuses here but also to the optimism among his supporters that his election would be a break from standard-issue politics.
"All my Republican friends — and independents — are sitting back saying, ‘Oh, what did we do?” Ms. McAreavy said. “I’m not to that point yet, but a lot of people are.”
[A]n erosion of support from independents and disapproval from Republicans suggests that the coalition Mr. Obama built to win the White House is frayed.
In few places did people get a longer and closer look at Mr. Obama than in Iowa, a swing state home to deep strains of both conservatism and liberalism. Mr. Obama was a constant presence here during the formative months of his candidacy. Many voters have pictures of him on their mantels, looking him in the eye as they took a measure of the man and the politician before giving him a crucial victory in the caucuses.
A social studies teacher who saw Mr. Obama on his maiden visit here wonders whether momentum from the election is gone forever. A retired electrical engineer who became a Democrat to support Mr. Obama believes that the president too often blames others for his troubles. And a teacher who voted for Mr. Obama because she was fed up with President George W. Bush does not trust this administration any more than the previous one.
It must be a shock to the White House to learn that a recent Rasmussen poll found voters trust Republicans more on ALL of the top ten key issues. As more and more voters wake to the reality of who and what sits in the Oval Office, expect approval for Obama's policies to continue to decline.
The writing is on the wall for 2010 and 2012!