That President Obama will have a steep re-election hill to climb is no secret. The recent McClatchy-Marist poll shows that this climb is getting increasingly harder. A plurality of voters indicate they will definietly vote against the President and even non-frontrunners like Ron Paul are closing the gap in hypthetical match-ups with Obama. For the administration this poll is cause for concern but not panic for four reasons:
- Hypothetical match-ups are just that, hypothetical. At this stage we are witnessing a nine-on-one pile up. While the Republican candidates are throwing jabs at each other in an effort to standout, their core message is of criticizing the president. Weeks of coverage of this type of rhetoric is having an effect on public opinion.
- President Obama is not in full campaign mode. The President may have made a lot of mistakes and have his set of weaknesses, but if there is one thing he is good at it’s campaigning. Not being in campaign mode yet, the President has not shoot back at the Republican criticism. As a result, individuals do not have readily available messaging to counterbalance the numerous and GOP assaults.
- Independents matter, but the base is what really matters. The gains that the Republican candidates have made come from a migration of Independent voters. Some of these individuals voted for Obama, some of them did not. However, while the out-migration of Independents will make the election tight, it is not the determinant factor. Turning out the base is what wins an election, alternatively not turning it out is what seals defeat (e.g. Bush ’92).
- Location, location, location. The McClatchy-Marist poll provides an aggregate view of candidate preferences. However, the presidential election is fought on the electoral map. It depends where President Obama is loosing the Independent vote. If he is loosing Independents in Texas or California it is no big deal, if he is loosing Independents in New Mexico, then that is a problem. A blanket statement of loosing (or gaining) support must be prefaced with a geographical point of reference.
Victoria DeFrancesco Soto