This month, President Obama’s overall approval rating is the lowest it has been since his election, with 41% of Americans approving of the job he is doing in office according to the latest Gallup data. Additionally, his approval rating in each major subcategory has fallen: most notably, a scanty 26% of Americans approve of how he is handling the economy. With the 2012 presidential election approaching, these figures are not good news for Obama supporters. But let’s not forgot, that Obama’s reelection depends not only on support for him, but also on opposition to the Republican candidate. That is to say, if Americans don’t vote to reelect the president because they think he’s doing a good job, let’s hope they vote for him because they think he’s a better choice than any of his challengers. And after looking at the Republican field, that latter option looks very promising.
Of course, approaching the issue from the far left may render the following statement slightly biased, but the current Republican candidates in the 2012 race for president seem unlikely to ever get elected. In this post, I will focus on the top three contenders: Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney.
First, the newest Republican poster child, Rick Perry, will never appeal to political moderates. This Texas governor is popular among Tea Partiers, has a strong donor base, and has a compelling
story to tell about job growth in Texas under his leadership. But his strong Christian beliefs are overly-aggressive and polarizing. His August 11 comment to TIME Magazine that he can feel in his heart that running for president is what he’s “supposed to be doing” has led many to surmise that Perry believes that God wants him to be president. In a blatant blurring of the lines between church and state, Perry was the head organizer behind an August 6 Christian prayer service called “The Response”, which addressed various American crises. Though praised by Christian conservatives, such fanaticism repels the support of every American who does not fall into that category.
Winner of the August 13 Ames Straw Poll, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has arguably received the most media attention of any Republican candidate to date. But to all critical minds who have been following this coverage, it seems the best thing Bachmann can do for her campaign is keep her mouth shut. Though she has strong support from Tea Party activists and a proven ability to raise money, the more media coverage she gets, the more publicity she gets for saying things that are… well, dumb. As a state senator in 2004, Bachmann famously quipped, “And what a bizarre time we’re in … when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.” And discussing the framers of the Constitution at an event in Iowa in January 2011, Bachmann said, “we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” Bachmann’s supporters praise her presentation and public speaking skills, but it cannot be denied that behind that presentation, there is strikingly little substance. As her campaign progresses, the non-Fox media is bringing this lack of substance to light. By Novemeber of 2012, I hypothesize that this kind of exposure will paint the picture of a candidate that is unelectable.
Perhaps the sanest of the Republican frontrunners, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, may not be conservative enough to capture the support of the Republican base. During an August 15 Town Hall in Minnesota, President Obama responded to conservatives who attack his healthcare policies by observing, “You’ve got a governor who’s running for president right now who instituted the exact same thing in Massachusetts.” Though Romney’s political history is by no means liberal, he appears more liberal than his primary contenders, and this may serve as an insurmountable roadblock in capturing the Republican nomination. What is more, his Mormon religion also hinders broad support from socially-conservative Republican base. So although this candidate seems to be the most capable of winning over moderate voters and beating Obama in the general election, he is unlikely to obtain the Republican nomination.
As a liberal, Obama’s latest disapproval ratings are definitely worrisome. But until the Republicans produce a non-polarizing candidate that can harness the support of both the conservative base and political moderates, Obama’s reelection remains likely.
Illustration by Mike Keefe, The Denver Post, Cagle Cartoons
Elizabeth Warren isn’t taking no for an answer.
Ms. Warren is the creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was established in last year’s financial reform act. She had thought of the idea years before and lobbied hard for its inclusion in the law. When it was finally created, she was the natural choice to lead it, but her outspoken advocacy for the middle-class meant that she could never get enough Republican votes to make it through the Senate confirmation process. The bureau remained leaderless for a year until Richard Cordray was nominated, although he is still awaiting confirmation.
Elizabeth Warren appears to have taken a new strategy towards the Senate: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. On August 18 she announced the formation of an exploratory committee for the Massachusetts Senate seat currently held by Scott Brown and formerly held by Ted Kennedy. While this isn’t yet an official announcement of candidacy, progressive groups which have been pushing for Ms. Warren to run are very excited about the move.
Scott Brown’s seat may be tougher than expected to take. For a Republican in Massachusetts, he has high approval ratings, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is still a Republican in Massachusetts, at a time when Congress is more deeply unpopular than ever before. Elizabeth Warren is certainly an exciting figure who can motivate progressives to campaign and turn up at the polls. Hopefully, Ms. Warren will be able to make the Senate Republicans sorry they had opposed her nomination when she shows up on the Senate floor.