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The president’s biography foreshadowed his presidency. Born in Hawaii, educated in Los Angeles, New York, and Cambridge, and representing a cross-section of white academics and black underclass from Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood as an Illinois state legislator, Barack Obama knows Blue America. His work for Ralph Nader’s Public Interest Research Group and as a community organizer in Chicago certainly didn’t bring him into contact with many conservatives. Today, he resides where his popularity is greatest (the District of Columbia awards him an 83 percent approval rating, according to Gallup) and even vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, an island containing the Bluest town (nine in ten Aquinnah residents voted for him) in the Bluest state. But what do they know of Blue States who only Blue States know?
The president’s Blue-bubble existence cuts quite a contrast with the candidates who seek to unseat him.
Michigan-born Mitt Romney won election to govern Massachusetts, where, as his wife pointed out Tuesday night, just thirteen percent of the electorate registers Republican. Democrats back then composed the state’s entire Washington delegation. Upon becoming governor in 2003, Romney faced super-majorities of Democrats in both houses of the state legislature. Yet, he managed to cut taxes and the budget deficit.
Like Massachusetts, Wisconsin hasn’t voted Republican for president since opting for Ronald Reagan in 1984. Yet Paul Ryan, representing the urban district held by Les Aspin for more than two decades, has never garnered less than 57 percent of the vote in any of his seven runs for Congress.
Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. But at least Romney and Ryan have a track record of winning ballots from Democratic voters and persuading Democratic lawmakers. Barack Obama has a history of talking about bipartisanship. He doesn’t have much of a history of talking to actual Republicans.
Former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis quipped Tuesday at the Republican National Convention, “Democrats used to have a night when they presented a film of their presidential legends: if they do it in Charlotte, the theme song should be this year’s hit, ‘Somebody That I Used to Know.’” If Americans don’t recognize Barack Obama as the type of Democrat that they used to know, the pod-person president’s failure to get to know the alien species known as Republicans best explains why.
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