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2010: Obama and Democrats Face Independent Problem

Obama’s job approval rating among independent voters stands at just 39%; 50% disapprove of the president’s job performance. Still, Obama’s rating among independent voters is higher than George W. Bush’s was in September 2006 (29% approve/57% disapprove). – Pew Poll

When Republicans took out Tom Daschle they did it with John Thune. Today, Tea Party activists have managed to nominate a shrill extremist in Nevada, with majority leader Harry Reid still not able to take her out. From the LVRJ:

The poll for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and 8NewsNow also found nonpartisan voters breaking Angle’s way, giving her a 20-point lead over Reid among these Nevadans who are likely to determine the outcome of the high stakes race.

“The independents have shifted to her by the biggest margin since the primary,” said Brad Coker of Mason Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the survey. “If she goes on to win this, maybe this is the first sign that at the end of the day Angle might nose it out.”

The shift of Independents was also seen in the recent Pew Poll. That they’re also tilting more conservative is another unfortunate result of the first 20 months of Obama’s presidency.

All things considered, support for the Republicans and political energy among independents is closely linked to disillusionment with Obama’s policies and the president himself. Fully 69% of independent voters who say Obama’s policies have made the economy worse favor the Republican candidate in their district — and 80% say they will definitely vote. Disapproval of the president’s job performance, anger at the federal government and opposition to the health care legislation also are closely associated with support for Republican candidates. Independents who express these views also are highly likely to vote.

Fueling all of this is the catastrophic failure of Obama’s health care law, an issue Democrats were right to take up, but which they botched thoroughly. It’s likely why Democrats aren’t hailing the commemoration of its signing, while Sarah Palin has launched another attack via FB, dragging out “death panels,” the phrase that hijacked Obama’s message and sent health care into a tailspin downward.

How the White House allowed Sarah Palin to best them on messaging is something for which David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel and the entire political team at 1600 should have to answer. It was the jet engine of Palin’s rise, which has continued unabated, because the Obama White House underestimated her, preferring instead to laugh, while she just kept slamming all things Democratic. Now every time she cites health care with her Tea Party pals it revs up the big engine again, which is also driven by Independents, even if they don’t think Sarah Palin is remotely qualified to be president. It hardly matters when she’s not on the midterm ballot, with anger looking for an outlet.

Palin has also launched a website, TakeBackthe20, which targets 20 House seats “they won,” complete with crosshairs, taking on representatives who voted for health care.

It’s incomprehensible why Obama and Democrats aren’t acknowledging the Tea Party’s anger, which is shared by many Independents, simply saying, We get it and this is what we’re going to do about it. Instead, David Axelrod is making the silly argument that fighting for middle class tax cuts, while repealing the Bush tax cuts for the top 2%, isn’t necessary because voters know where Democrats stand.

The Pew Poll levels a final damaging assessment on Democrats that matters more than any other. Stunningly, Independent voters polled believe Republicans are better at “managing the government.”

On perhaps the most important measure of performance — managing the government — more independent voters currently now say the Republican Party could do better, by 42% to 31%. In 2006, by about the same margin (38% to 26%), more independent voters said the Democratic Party could better manage the federal government.

We all know that Republicans not only don’t respect government, but botch the management of it when they get in office. So, the incompetence that Obama and Democrats have illustrated, particularly on messaging, since Obama was elected, which came with great enthusiasm and hope, really is the most damaging assessment on the un-Democratic competence meter of Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the entire 111th Congress.

The final nail was punting on middle class tax cuts. Leaving the only reason to vote Democratic is the other guy is worse. Since most likely voters don’t believe that’s true it makes the last month before midterms a hard sell, because Democrats haven’t given people a reason to tilt in their direction once everyone really starts paying attention. If minorities decide to sit out the election, because Pres. Obama isn’t on the ballot, the white tide of fury may end up being the final weight on the scale.

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