For the first time since Obama’s second term Gallup has recorded the President being in negative approval territory. His use of drone strikes indiscriminately targeting terrorists/American citizens and the warranted wiretapping of the AP and Fox News has angered the Left. The Right is up in arms over the IRS being used as a political hammer to smash groups with dissenting political viewpoints. The middle sees a struggling economy and is concerned about the number of scandals enveloping the administration.
But lost in this dynamic is the damage that Obama is doing to the populist, Democratic brand the party still enjoys among voters in states like Montana and a few quarters of the majority-white South. Moreover, the entire civil-rights/liberties brand of the Democratic Party is slowly being brought down. The repercussions this has for the party in the future, especially among their current core support groups of Millennials and minorities cannot be ascertained as of yet. They still support the President’s agenda and approve of his job performance, but slowly, bit by bit, more of them are losing faith in the President.
In the short-term this benefits Republicans. Republicans are planning to seriously compete in the open Senate seats of WV and SD; they look likely to win both. They also plan to compete in competitive Arkansas, red Louisianan, purple North Carolina and quixotic Alaska. All these states voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and are ripe GOP pick-up opportunities. A number of juicy House seats are also being targeted by the party. A major fall, or even a slight drop, in the President’s approval could depress Democratic turnout and hurt them next year.
Long-term, the brand the Democratic Party has built up to portray itself to its new coalition, appears to be fraying at the edges. Its national defense edge in polls is gone, voters (traditionally older mind you) again trust the GOP on taxes and spending as well as the deficit. On education, healthcare, entitlements and Afghanistan and Iraq the edge the Democrats have over the GOP is shrinking. In polls the President still gets more trust from voters on these issues than the GOP however.
But polls cannot capture the damage a President can do to his party’s brand. It was not clear until 2008 how much havoc Bush had wrought the GOP brand. Even a Republican Presidential candidate who was a veteran could not earn voters trust, young and old, on foreign policy. The only group who stayed loyal to the GOP during Bush’s entire tenure were social conservatives. Apparently, not even Obama can claim his core support of liberals are remaining supportive of him.
The ACLU, a bastion of liberalism self-righteousness, among other things, has filed several lawsuits against the administration. Among these lawsuits the two most prominent are the suits against the new DOJ and Department of Education’s university campus speech codes and the data mining apparently done by the NSA. On other fronts there is also trouble brewing.
The GOP, despite its courting of social conservatives, appears to be edging towards offering a new vision of conservatism. These visions are being articulated by Governors at the state level and by Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul at the federal level. They differ of course on the particulars but their message is largely pro-family, pro-defense (even Rand Paul’s is) and pro-economy.
The problem for the Democratic brand is that it has been changed during the Obama administration. When Obama came into the White House in 2008 he offered a brand of the Democratic Party to different groups. Among Independents and fiscal conservatives it was that of a fiscal hawk. Among minorities it was that of civil rights champion and among the young it was a non-interventionist candidate. Some of this brand is untarnished (civil-rights advocate) but other parts are dead. By 2010 the fiscal hawk brand was gone. Barely six months into his second term the President’s non-interventionist brand is reeling.
Now, to be fair, a lot of the damage that is being done has yet to be thoroughly tested in polls. After-all, the young and minorities are not abandoning the party or President in mass. But they also appear more willing now to listen to another viewpoint. And for Democrats and future liberal candidates that is an issue. Come the right GOP candidate for President and the damage Obama did to the Democratic brand may be seen fully in the light. Needless to say, this would be bad for Democrats!