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The conventional wisdom about the presidential election is wrong!

by | May 10, 2012

Democratic Strategist James Carville

By Dave Andrusko

   Each time we write about the latest polling data we add the caveat that the presidential election is “x” months away and that the current state of affairs can change in the blink of an eye. With that in mind, two analyses over the past two days suggest that the conventional wisdom–that Obama has a slight edge in the electoral-map math–is a perfect example of missing the forest for the trees.

   Writing on National Journal Daily, Josh Kraushaar points to a “glaring disconnect” between this conventional wisdom “and the fundamentals” which do not bode well for the President.

   It’s not just the obvious—an economy limping along and the public’s abiding dislike for Obama’s “signature” domestic achievement, ObamaCare.

   Kraushaar cites Obama’s approval ratings “stuck at 47 percent against Mitt Romney in all three surveys, with the small slice of undecided voters tilting against the president.” Likewise, “Obama’s scores on the economy are worsening, even as voters still have mixed feelings on who’s to blame.”

   It’s actually worse than that for President Obama. Not so long ago a  majority still blamed former President Bush. However “In the Battleground survey, nearly as many voters now blame Obama for the state of the economy (39 percent) as those who don’t think it’s his fault (40 percent).”

   And worst of all, almost twice as many people believe the country is on the wrong track (59%) as think the country is on the right track (33%, according to two recent polls.

   Yet as bad as those numbers are for any incumbent, it is something else that is more ominous—what Kraushaar calls “The other big red flag.” And that is

“the waning enthusiasm of his base—college-age voters, African-Americans, and Hispanics. The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that fewer than half of voters (45 percent) ages 18-34 expressed a high interest in the election, down 17 points from the same time four years ago. Democratic enthusiasm overall is down 16 points from last year, and it now lags behind the GOP.

“This is critical, because, for Obama, excitement is as important as persuasion. It’s no coincidence that Obama held his first two rallies on college campuses. Obama campaign officials have been anticipating an upward tick in the minority share of the electorate for 2012 to compensate for the expected loss of older, white voters, and they are counting on college students to organize and rally behind the president, like they did for him in 2008. Those assumptions are hardly guaranteed.”

   Just a word about the opinion piece written for CNN by Democratic strategist James Carville, best known for his work on behalf of former President Clinton. The acerbic Carville begins with a blunt wake-up sentence:

“Democratic fundraisers, activists, supporters, and even politicians alike have somehow collectively lapsed into the sentiment that the president is going to be reelected and that we have a good shot to take the House back while holding the Senate.”

  To which he snorts, “What are you smoking? What are you drinking?” He proceeds to go through the basics, including polling data and the obvious fact that incumbents around the world are being tossed out on their ears.

   Carville being Carville, he can’t avoid cheap (and inaccurate/unfair) shots at pro-life Mitt Romney, before coming around to his conclusion.

“However, I fear that all of this will not be enough unless we have real change of attitude about the difficult campaign ahead of us.”

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