From Politico's John Harris, here's what they are thinking inside the beltway:
A year into his presidency, however, Obama’s gift for controlling his image shows signs of faltering. As Washington returns to work from the Thanksgiving holiday, there are several anti-Obama storylines gaining momentum. ... Here are seven storylines Obama needs to worry about:In order, quoting from Harris:
1. He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money
2. Too much Leonard Nimoy
3. That’s the Chicago Way
4. He’s a pushover
5. He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe
6. President Pelosi
7. He’s in love with the man in the mirror
According to Harris, the same folks who sat through eight years of exploding deficits under Bush without saying a word are now freaked out by one year of spending under President Obama in the middle of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. And, without pointing to a single shred of evidence, they think "spending" is a big political issue.
Well, how do they explain the fact that even a majority of Southern Republicans -- the most conservative leaning voters in the entire country -- want the federal government to pass a jobs bill?
According to Harris, DC-types think that the Democrats' big problem is that independents are fleeing to the GOP, and they cite Virginia as evidence of that thesis. But that's not the case. As kos wrote on election night, the problem is that an unmotivated left is a political death sentence for the Democratic Party.
But that only tells part of the story. The other part is that while Democrats were 39% of the 2008 electorate, they were only 33% of the 2009 electorate. Meanwhile, while conservatives were 33% of the 2008 electorate, they were 40% of the 2009 electorate. Both moderates and liberals stayed home, while conservatives showed up.
That's not a story of independents fleeing to the GOP, that's a story of Democrats and left-leaning independents sitting on the sidelines because they weren't motivated to vote.
It's not that Deeds moved too far left for the independents, it's that he didn't give left-leaning independents and Democrats a strong reason to vote.
Although DC-types seems to be learning the wrong lessons from Virginia, the right lessons are quite important, and our newest tracking poll yields more evidence of that fact. As Steve noted on Friday, there is an enormous enthusiasm gap between Democrats and the GOP:
But a bigger indicator of peril comes from a new survey question added the DK tracking poll for the first time this week. The poll now includes a rather simple indicator of baseline voter enthusiasm for the year 2010. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:That right there is a recipe for a 2010 electoral horror show for Democrats, but not for the reasons that the "conventionally wise" crowd in DC is chasing around the cocktail circuit. Those numbers right there show us a Democratic base that is apathetic and uninspired, and anyone who thinks the way to fix that problem is by moving to the right is dumber than a sack of bricks.
QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:
Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not VotingRepublican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23
DEMOCRATIC VOTERS: 56/40
Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will "definitely not vote" in 2010 than are Republicans.
The bottom-line is that DC-types who are looking to understand why Democrats face political peril in 2010 oughta' get outside of DC, because if Harris is offering an accurate portrait, the discussions they are having there are positively inane.
It's not a question of whether Obama's big ears make him look like Dr. Spock, it's not a question of whether he's "too Chicago" or "too soft," it's not a question of whether Nancy Pelosi is moving him too far left or if he thinks the U.S. is a nice African nation, and it certainly isn't a question of whether he's spending too much time looking in the mirror.
The challenge faced by Democrats is whether they can demonstrate to the nation -- and particularly, to their base -- that they have made substantial progress in delivering the change they promised in 2008. Among other things, that means turning this economy around, getting out of Iraq, getting us closer to leaving Afghanistan, reforming our health care system, and reinventing our energy economy.
In short, it's the substance that matters, not the Beltway babble. Nobody said it would be easy, but to the extent Democrats want to deliver, the base will stand with them -- and return them to office next November.
But if they abandon the base, the base will abandon them. It's not really that complicated, but it's no surprise most in DC still haven't figured itout.