Obama’s real reelection problem

The Chicago Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet picked out an interesting morsel in Jodi Kantor’s book about the Obama family:

“When Michelle Obama worked in Mayor Daley’s City Hall in the early 1990s, she was 'distressed' by how a small group of 'white Irish Catholic' families — the Daleys, the Hynes and the Madigans — 'locked up' power in Illinois.

"She particularly resented the way power in Illinois was locked up generation after generation by a small group of families, all white Irish Catholic — the Daleys in Chicago, the Hynes and Madigans statewide.”

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Obama White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, one of those hated white Irish Catholics, resigned the same weekend the book’s juiciest tidbits leaked out.

It is probably all just a coincidence, but sometimes coincidences reveal bigger truths.

And the bigger truth is that Bill Daley left the White House because he lost to Valerie Jarrett and to the president’s wife in the battle for the philosophical direction of the Obama White House.

I don’t know if Michelle Obama’s antipathy toward white Irish Catholics finally became too much of a barrier to Daley or not. But I do know that Daley was only ineffective because his boss would not let him be effective.

Bill Daley is a political pragmatist. He cuts deals. Like his father and his brother, he is not a left-wing ideologue; nor is he a Republican in Democratic clothing.

He is a pro-business Democrat, an increasingly rare breed these days in Washington.

Obama is not a pro-business Democrat. His wife is not a pro-business Democrat. They don’t like the business community. They don’t trust the free market. They want to spread wealth around (other people’s wealth, I might add).

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It has become increasingly clear over the last several months that Obama has little interest in tacking to the political middle to improve his standing with the broad center of the country.

He has decided that he wants his presidency to mean something different, and he has made the fateful decision that he will govern as a left-wing political populist. That is why he has embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement, why he keeps using class-warfare rhetoric, why he has given up on deal-cutting, why he has decided to run against Congress rather than on his accomplishments.

But the problem for the president is that this tactic is not working with crucial swing voters. More specifically, it is not working with white voters.

As Ron Brownstein pointed out, in writing about an Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll released on Dec. 16, Obama’s approval ratings among all white voters are absolutely terrible:

“In 2008, he carried 52 percent of those college-educated white women, but attracted much smaller shares among college-educated white men (42 percent), white women without a college degree, the so-called waitress moms (41 percent) and the non-college white men (just 39 percent).

"The new survey shows that with all four groups his approval rating is appreciably lower than his 2008 performance. He’s fallen to 42 percent of the college-educated white women, 37 percent among the college-plus white men, just 34 percent among the non-college white men and all the way down to 30 percent with the waitress moms.

"Looking at whites by age underlines the picture of broad-based weakness. In 2008, Obama carried a 54 percent majority of whites under 30; but in the new poll his approval rating with them has tumbled to 39 percent.

"His standing with white seniors now is almost identical: In 2008, he won only 40 percent of them, and his approval rating with them now is 41 percent. His numbers are lowest with whites in the prime working years: just 29 percent of whites [age] 30-44, and 35 percent of whites 45-64 say they approve of his performance. In 2008, he won 41 percent of the former and 42 percent of the latter.

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"Among all whites, now just 35 percent approve of his performance and 58 percent disapprove. That’s virtually identical to the results in the 2010 congressional election, when whites gave 60 percent of their votes to Republicans and just 37 percent to Democrats, according to the National Election Pool exit poll conducted by Edison Research ... "

Some might conclude that these white voters don’t like Obama because they are inherently racist, but I think that is a dangerous and stupid conclusion. After all, Obama won the majority of white voters in the last election.

I think it is because the Obama White House has made the decision that it doesn’t need those white voters to win. That may be true in 20 years, but it is not true today.

The swing vote in this next election is the same as it has been in the last six elections. It is the white working-class voter.

Ignoring and marginalizing Bill Daley might have pleased the wife and Valerie Jarrett, but Daley’s departure is very bad news for Obama’s hopes for reelection.

Those white Irish Catholics whom Michelle Obama so despises are the key to her husband's campaign success. And getting rid of Bill Daley is one more example of President Obama’s real problem this coming election year.