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Just about everyone says President Barack Obama’s Democrats will lose and lose big in 2010. Some are even calling Obama a one-term president. Although it’s far too early to write Obama’s political obituary, especially in light of his formidable political skills and the fact that 2012 is light years away, all the ingredients of the unraveling of what was just 18 months ago being called “The Obama Realignment” are now in the mix.
The first ingredient is the economy. No matter how many stimulus bills are passed, industries are bailed out or speeches against “Wall Street greed” are delivered, the economy is not healthy. Unemployment is still hovering at 10 percent. The stock market is down some 20 percent from its October 2007 high. And 15 percent of homeowners are either in default or at least a month behind on their mortgage.
To be sure, Obama inherited these problems. But his party held sizable majorities in Congress as the economy cratered and the housing market imploded, and most voters know it. In other words, the “blame Bush” defense doesn’t work for congressional Democrats. And for that matter, it’s not working for Obama anymore given that most voters conclude, rightly, this is now Obama’s economy.
Hence, only 27 percent of Americans say the country is on the right track, while 64 percent say wrong track. Interestingly, that’s about the same response as in the final year of the Bush administration. (By the way, at this point in the Bush presidency—in the summer before the 2002 midterms—the right track/wrong track breakdown was 47 percent/44 percent.)
That brings us to a second ingredient: disenchantment. Many of those who supported Obama and his party in 2008 believed that the changes he and his congressional partners promised would make things better. They believed he would be different than a typical politician. Indeed, they believed he would be better.
But 18 months later, Obama is realizing that “Presidenting is hard,” as Will Ferrell put it in his caricature of President George W. Bush. And Obama’s supporters are realizing “The One” is just another politician.
He may have campaigned on fighting pork and earmarks, for instance, but he let his party lard up the stimulus package and then slipped a massive federal takeover of student loans into a healthcare bill of all things.
Likewise, he may have promised an end to politics as usual, but the president’s team offered Joe Sestak a backroom deal to protect Arlen Specter, a federal judgeship to the brother of a key swing vote on health care, a USAID post to Andrew Romanoff to stay out of a Senate race, and the quid pro quos keep coming.
That’s anything but change. That’s old-fashioned politics. And it brings us to another ingredient: the mass exodus of independent voters from Obama’s Democrats.
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