Friday, September 12, 2008
Autumn Angst: Dems fret about Obama
Polls showing John McCain tied or even ahead of Barack Obama are stirring angst and second-guessing among some of the Democratic Party's most experienced operatives, who worry that Obama squandered opportunities over the summer and may still be underestimating his challenges this fall. "It's more than an increased anxiety," said Doug Schoen, who worked as one of Bill Clinton's lead pollsters during his 1996 reelection and has worked for both Democrats and independents in recent years. "It's a palpable frustration. Deep-seated unease in the sense that the message has gotten away from them."
Joe Trippi, a consultant behind Howard Dean's flash-in-the-pan presidential campaign in 2004 and John Edwards' race in 2008, said the Obama campaign was slow to recognize how the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate would change the dynamic of the race. "They were set up to run `experience versus change,' what they had run [against Hillary] Clinton," Trippi said. "And I think Palin clearly moved that to be change [and] reform, versus change. They are adjusting to that and that threw them off balance a little bit."
A major Democratic fundraiser described it a good bit more starkly after digesting the polls of recent days: "I'm so depressed. It's happening again. It's a nightmare."
Adding to Democratic restlessness, McCain has largely neutralized some issue advantages that have long favored Democrats. This week's USA Today/Gallup poll reported a split on which candidate "can better handle the economy"; 48 percent chose Obama while 45 percent said McCain. In late August, Obama had a 16-point edge on the issue. Also this week, an ABC News/Washington Post poll reported that when voters are asked "who can bring about needed change to Washington," McCain still trails Obama by 12 points. But in June, McCain trailed by 32 points.
That shift in the public's perception of the issues, in Democratic pollster Celinda Lake's words, "tremendously concerns me." Lake joined other Democratic veterans, some speaking not for attribution, in emphasizing a classic liberal woe: that the Democrat let the Republican define him. "Obama needed to define himself," Lake said. "I do think that during the Democratic convention we should have done a better job of defining McCain."
Steve Rosenthal, a veteran field organizer for Democrats and organized labor, said that some entrenched Democratic vulnerabilities never receded this year. And in his view, Palin has reawakened those liberal weaknesses. "For some white, working-class voters who don't want to vote for Barack Obama but weren't sure about McCain, Palin gave them a good reason to take another look and consider supporting McCain," Rosenthal said. "On the one hand, it could be a temporary reshuffling of the deck," he added. "And on the other hand, it underscores the deep-seated problems we have in this race with race, class and culture.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH
Posted by JR at 9:33 AM