Stick a fork in Obama — he’s done

On life support. Dead man walking. Down for the count. He’s toast. Stick a fork in him; he’s done. Pick your own metaphorical cliché as long as it acknowledges that this president is a goner. If you need proof, consider Gallup’s recent assessment of the president’s job-approval numbers: “Only one elected president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, had a lower 11th-quarter average than Obama.” And we all know what happened to Mr. Peanut. Gallup brings the president’s lousy numbers to the bottom line by showing that Obama is losing to a generic Republican in its surveys, as well as in a head-to-head with the leading Republican, Mitt Romney.

The killer data point, in my view, is that the decline in Obama’s job approval has been so systematic and lockstep, declining in Gallup’s surveys by an average of about 3 points per quarter, never increasing outside the margin of error from one quarter to the next and staying below 50 percent since his fourth quarter in office. This means that most Americans have lingered over his failures for seven or more quarters, deepening and reinforcing their malaise about the man. Once you get into a groove like that, it’s hard to get out.


Facing such odds, what do the Obama strategists recommend? First, they have to get their candidate’s partisan base back. Right now, using Gallup’s numbers, 9 percent of registered Democrats defect to a generic Republican and 13 percent of Democrats vote for Mitt Romney. There is simply no way to formulate a minimum winning coalition scenario for Obama if more than 5 percent of Democrats defect. So they decided to play peacenik and Santa Claus all at once, bringing the troops home from Iraq for Christmas. Normally I would say this is well-played, but when Christmas comes, the media will dutifully interview troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere, reminding everyone that the Iraq withdrawal was mostly a symbolic cover-up of the fact that war continues. And when terrorists blow up one of the few Christian churches still operating in Iraq on Christmas Eve, the potential Democrat defectors will realize that this president needs to go. Playing the peace card also blocks Obama from using a national-security ruse, or even benefiting from one, if a major foreign or terrorist threat develops.

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Of course, the main hindrance to Obama’s reelection is the sorry state of the economy. I suspect the Obama strategy team checks with the Conference Board, the University of Michigan and Gallup hourly to see if their consumer confidence indicators show any signs of life. Nothing’s happening lately on that front, however. The fact is that the president’s men and women can’t move this rock. It reminds me of an election year when the Bush administration and Republican prospects were struggling under the weight of high energy prices. I recall wondering, “Why can’t they fix this?” Of course, macroeconomic conditions are nowadays often beyond even the White House’s control. But, like Cubs fans believing a World Series is possible next year, the Obama campaign planners maintain belief that recovery is within their grasp.

Once it’s clear that there is no reason to vote for Obama, his handlers will refocus on reasons to vote against the Republican. This is where the problems they face are myriad. When a candidate with high negatives starts attacking one with low negatives, the result is usually a boomerang. Romney’s name ID is so high, and his unfavorable impressions so low, that I just don’t see how this will work for the Obama attack dogs.

Obama himself might call them off, choosing instead to preserve whatever remnant of a legacy survives. If we see conciliation rather than fight, we’ll know he’s quit. It might not be much longer now.

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