Hear that banjo music, liberal dems

It’s interesting to try and figure out what President Obama and his reelection handlers are up to. There’s got to be a strategy, hasn’t there? One minute they seem to be trying to please their base. The next time they seem like triangulators. Lately, in full metal jacket, they seem to be courting the right wing of the GOP. Is their strategy simply to confuse us, like some sort of high-low, low-high martial-arts fighting strategy? Or instead, are there some short-term misdirection ploys going on here before they get down to real business? Our GOP is so slow getting started (and that’s fine by me, frankly), that the other side in the White House knows it can play some games. I’m enjoying the cabaret. But, sooner or later, Republicans have to show their hand and play some cards in the campaign casino.

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If I had to bet, I think they might be taking their base for granted, assuming that if Rove Republicans couldn’t make a mostly base-courting strategy work, Democrats can’t succeed with it either, especially with this quirky president. We’ll return to this supposition below, but if they are temporarily neglecting their base, they must assume that some swing voters and moderate Republicans are up for grabs again. They might be on to something. We’ve known that a minority Republican with a strong national-defense posture would be hard for Democrats to beat in certain swing segments of the electorate. Ponder Colin Powell in better days or, in a contemporary context, Allen West. They both had or have the ability to court swing conservative Democrats and hawkish independents while still appealing to some Democrat moderates because of their race. Now, consider a small switch. The hawk is a black Democrat. This Democrat can grab some voters who might otherwise vote Republican in most elections. Once upon a time, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was just such a candidate. Not a soldier, but rather a tough cop, he was a potential Republican nightmare because he could reach into the thin California GOP base and steal just enough moderate and security-conscious voters to make a Republican victory impossible. If George Deukmejian had not been an incumbent governor in 1986, he might have lost to Bradley’s challenge for just this reason. Obama might try to win one for Bradley this time.

We know that a lot of moderate Republicans voted for Obama in 2008. But that was mostly for the feel-good sentiments and Bush angst. There wasn’t a real sharp policy focus to it. Now that the socially liberal economic Republicans know that Obama is a typical Democrat and Illinois political spendthrift, some won’t vote for a second term. Obama’s vote counters know that they need to strip off another segment of the right to replace the fiscals and create a minimum winning coalition without them. So they might be aiming for national-security Republicans instead, genuine Palin-lovin’ folks. I hear you laughing. Stop that! I genuinely think that Obama’s team thinks this is a muscular president who now has enough blood on his hands to court the Ollie North crowd, especially the downscale populists who might want some of the economic goodies, like free healthcare and protectionist bailouts. They probably already have the micro-targeted DNA sequencing to make this happen.

If this is true, the neglected Democrat base might notice and be repulsed. The only chance that Obama has for reelection is to re-energize that mighty wave of idealistic new and mostly liberal voters he activated in 2008 and have them once again surge to the polls. Once they hear the banjo music coming from the Obama camp as it tries to court the “Deliverance” crowd, they’ll get throwing-up sick. But desperate times dictate desperate strategies, don’t they?

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.