Could Obama be headed for a landslide win?
Even though Obama has lackluster approval ratings and will likely face unemployment north of 8% - reason enough to think he is in jeopardy - GOP extremism may scare too many voters into Obama’s column. Obama is actually winning against both Romney and Gingrich in South Carolina - where Teabagger fave Nikki Haley is dropping like a stone, and winning big in Florida, where Rick Scott is loathed.
How can Barack Obama, as this new NBC/Marist poll has it, be beating Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in South Carolina, of all places? The leads are narrow—it’s just 45-42 over Romney and 46-42 over Gingrich. But still, this is South Carolina, the home state of a senator (Lindsey Graham) who, just this past Sunday on Meet the Press, was talking nullification of federal laws in the shameful style that is his state’s benighted tradition. Is it conceivable that 10 months and three weeks from now, Obama could actually win the state? If it happens, we will know that the Republicans are headed off the cliff. And that is precisely where we should all hope they go.
Ten months and three weeks is a long, long time. But today’s poll suggests that a wipeout of such proportions is not unimaginable. By a president whose anemic approval rating is just 44 percent! But I am not here to say the GOP had better grow up fast. Quite the contrary. If this tantrum lasts through the election, and if 2012 is for the Republicans what 1984 was for the Democrats, then finally our polity stands a chance of functioning again. The Tea Party will be dead and buried. Grover Norquist’s vise lock on the GOP will loosen. Someone will start a centrist Republican Leadership Council, just as people started the centrist DLC back in 1985. A certain number of elected Republicans will understand that being the Party of No didn’t get them much of anywhere. So this poll should not be a wake-up call for Republican voters. Hit the snooze button, folks, and keep fuming away.
It is still a long time to Election Day, of course, and at the end of the day, I still think Romney is going to win the GOP nomination (though I’m growing less confident of that every day). In fact, Nate Silver’s first projection for Iowa has Newt winning by a large margin, and Jeffrey Toobin points out that the GOP candidates have more or less embraced a highly unpopular platform, which would seem at odds with their collective revulsion of Barack Obama:
…the Republican agenda raises a question: Has any major American political party gone into a Presidential election with such an unpopular set of stands on the issues? Actually, yes.
In 1964, Republican insurgents seized control of the party. They recognized that their views were not held by a majority of Americans—at least not yet. As Rick Perlstein wrote in ‘Before the Storm,’ his fascinating history of the Barry Goldwater campaign, the Republican Party was taken over by ‘a little circle of political diehards whose every move was out of step with the times’—which did not bother them much at all. For their moment, they were political missionaries who came to introduce a nation raised on the New Deal to an alternative approach to governing. Goldwater embraced ‘extremism’ in the fond hope that its time, if not his time, would come. Goldwater and his aides didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about ‘electability.’ They didn’t expect to win, and, emphatically, they did not. Lyndon B. Johnson won sixty-one per cent of the popular vote, and carried forty-four states.
Toobin goes on to mention how the Goldwater debacle eventually set the stage for Reagan and Reaganism. The difference is that Reagan sold conservatism in a positive way, and he wasn’t so ideologically rigid that he wasn’t willing to compromise. Indeed, he ended up agreeing to raise taxes 11 times. Conservatives since then - especially with the rise of Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck, Fox News, right wing blogs, etc, have become increasingly divorced from reality, and in my view, dangerously irresponsible. It is my hope that Gingrich wins the nomination, and then does Newt things throughout the campaign that sends him and the GOP to it’s worst drubbing since 1964, thus hoisting Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck et al on their own petards. I won’t lay any money on that happening, but a guy can dream, right?