Assessing Obama

“Better than average for a president.” That was the assessment of Barack Obama by NPR commentator Juan Williams during today’s Midday on MPR. The show analyzed the performance of Obama in his first year in office. That’s also code for “if the election were held today, could he win again?”


If the election of 2008 were held today, would you change your vote?(opinion)

A Rasmussen poll last month suggested 49% of those surveyed said they were not likely to vote Obama for re-election if the election were held today. But those polls are usually pretty inaccurate until you start adding the names of opponents to the question.

Clearly, the enthusiasm for Obama has waned. But that was “irrational exuberance,” according to Williams.

“There will be a greal deal of exultation, especially among Democrats, if you get a health care bill passed,” Williams said, predicting passage of “something” by the State of the Union. But then the question is whether the American people. “That could be a huge problem,” he said.

“Independents are moving away from Obama on two issues: health care and stimulus. When people hear about limits on Medicare spending, people say, ‘No, we don’t want that,’” he said.

Eichten asked Williams if perhaps Obama should be a little tougher on Democrats in Congress, invoking the legend of Lyndon Johnson, who took no prisoners. “There’s no reason to be afraid of him,” Williams said. “People don’t fear this White House because they realize ever vote is so critical if you’re going to hold that 60-vote majority in the Senate. Every senator is king so it’s less about punishment than inducing carrots. He’s going to have to break some legs at some point; the famous LBJ response.”

“Who’s to blame for the lack of bipartisan cooperation?” host Gary Eichten asked.

“It’s fair to say Republicans came to the conclusion that there’s very little in their self interest in working with the president,” Williams said. “It would just guarantee that President Obama would be re-elected. Now, as we see some of the difficulties on the Democratic side, they’ve been able to point out the flaws. The other side of this is you have people like Rahm Emanuel, who is a hardball player, and not willing to compromise.” Williams said Emanuel has made clear that by compromising, nothing will be done and people will vote Republican in the next election.

That’s a response that’s worth considering further, of course, because it concludes that’s what’s in the best interest of the people in Washington, is politicians getting re-elected. That may be the only bipartisanship happening.

Williams also noted that the people who supported Obama a year ago, have disappeared from elections since.

What does the electorate say? Here’s a sample of some of the callers’ opinions.

“One year? This is nothing.”

“I don’t think this guy has really done anything that he said he was going to do. He came out on a theory of change; nothing has changed.”

“The Republicans have abdicated their duty and aren’t interested in the political process; they’re just interested in preventing Obama from getting any victories.”

“The Senate reworked their rules so that it would be more divisive. Americans are fickle. They say they’re for family values, but they’re only interested in the almighty dollar.”

“I think he’s had an exceptional year given the circumstances… the financial markets have rebounded, unemployment claims are down, retail’s expecting a higher volume.”

  • AG

    The poll assumes you voted for Obama. I wouldnt’ change my vote, but I didn’t vote for Obama (and I didn’t vote for the other guy either)

  • JackU

    AG: I don’t think that there’s an assumption that people who responded voted for Obama. The result that you’re seeing, an overwhelming majority so that they won’t change their vote, points to no change in outcome from last years election.

    The wording of this poll addresses the issue that Bob raised that when simply asked “would you vote for the President today?” People might say “no”. When presented with a specific choice as they would be in an actual election situation they may make a different response. This poll addresses that by asking if you would change your vote in the 2008 election. When you respond you know who the options are. The overwhelming answer is no (30/36) so the outcome of the 2008 election would most likely not change.

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info MBerg

    Bob – AG beat me to it. I voted for Mac; while I wasn’t immensely enthusiastic, given the choice, I’d do it again.

    Was it a sloppily-worded poll question, or is MPR that certain that its entire audience voted for The Obamessiah?

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info MBerg

    Jack,

    I design survey and analysis instruments for a living (among quite few other things) – and this bit here…:

    “The overwhelming answer is no (30/36) so the outcome of the 2008 election would most likely not change. ”

    …is a huge leap.

    If if 18 of the 36 “nos” were Mac supporters (or “neither” voters), and 25 of the 30 “yes” votes voted for Obama (not super-likely, but given MPR’s demographics, not unthinkable), it could just as easily mean a landslide turnaround.

    That’s why a “who did you vote for” question might have been useful.

  • Bob Collins

    Sloppy wording? Not at all. If I’d wanted to ask the question, “Would you vote for Obama again” that’s what I would have asked. Really. I’m not stupid. (g)

    The question I asked was meant to see if there’s been any shift in the electorate — or at least the electorate that chooses to offer an opinion.

    Whether you voted for McCain and would vote for him again or whether you voted for Obama and would vote for him again isn’t really, in itself, the issue. The question is whether things have changed one way or the other — dissatisfied with your choice or not dissatisfied with your choice, regardless of what that choice is.

    Mitch, sometimes things are the way they are because that’s the way they are. There isn’t always a conspiracy involved.

    Also, I don’t consider “Bob Collins” to be a pseudonym for MPR.

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info Mitch

    “Mitch, sometimes things are the way they are because that’s the way they are. There isn’t always a conspiracy involved.”

    Didn’t say there was. Didn’t even think it. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to guess which way most of MPR’s audience (and staff) voted, now, is it?

    “Also, I don’t consider “Bob Collins” to be a pseudonym for MPR.”

    ???

    This must be some kind of newfangled Zen riddle, right? :-)

    “The question I asked was meant to see if there’s been any shift in the electorate”

    So in other words, you’re not measuring political trends, you’re measuring that warm feeling (or lack thereof) in voters’ tummies. Fair enough. I guess it’s just my vocational urge to try to figure out not only *if* there’s a shift, but from where to whence.

  • Bob Collins

    //So in other words, you’re not measuring political trends, you’re measuring that warm feeling (or lack thereof) in voters’ tummies.

    How is dissatisfaction — or not — about a vote one year later not a political choice?

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info Mitch Berg

    “How is dissatisfaction — or not — about a vote one year later not a political choice?”

    It is, in a sense – but measuring the presence of absence of satisfaction without also answering the question “satisfied or not with who or what?” seems unsatisfying.

    My satisfaction with voting for Mac/against Obama is a very different thing, and accomanied by very different subtext, than someone else’s satisfaction with Obama. The only thing I and that other person will have in common is the presence of a feeling of satisfaction.

    Then again, maybe I’m just a dummy.

  • Bob Collins

    My interest is less about “would he be re-elected” as it is — as I indicated — about “would he be elected” on year later.

    Personally, I don’t see how, given that presidential elections these days pretty well swing on a handful of states — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, maybe South Carolina, maybe Colorado — and it would be fairly easy for the folks who were on the fence in those swing states to swing to a different choice.