Is Obama's Support Weaker Than Poll Numbers Appear?
There is a compelling divergence regarding President Obama's reelection chances when we consider what the poll numbers are telling us versus what the boots on the ground are indicating.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News nationwide poll taken during June 20-24 shows that Obama still leads the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney 47% to 44%. These results are within the poll's margin of error and are also close to the Real Clear Politics aggregation of major polls which finds Obama leading Romney 47.5% to 43.8%.
The same WSJ/NBC news poll found Obama leading Romney 50% to 42% in twelve so-called battleground states when considered as a group. However, when we observe the actions by those Democratic politicians up for reelection this fall in those battleground states and other states, that is their general reluctance to stand alongside President Obama, another story is told. These politicians are more in tune with the local voters and are distancing themselves from Obama. This may be indicative that Obama's support is not as high as it appears to be according to pollsters.
Take New York, for example. While New York is considered to likely be a blue state for Obama, Democratic Representative Bill Owens and Kathy Hochul just recently announced that they will not be in Charlotte, North Carolina at the Democratic National Convention in September. Of interest is the fact that Owens won in a special election in 2009 and Hochul was victorious in a 2011 special election. Obviously, both became newly minted U.S. Representatives during the Obama presidency and each election was heralded as an example of Obama's continued strength and that of the Democratic Party.
Yet it seems that neither Owens of Hochul want any Obama time this go round. That stands in stark contrast to 2009, when President Obama campaigned for Owens and attended a fundraiser for him in New York City. Vice-President Joe Biden also campaigned for Owens in 2009.
Then there is Missouri. The Show-Me State, which may no longer be considered a bellwether state, is still home to one of Obama's biggest supporters and loyalists in Senator Claire McCaskill, who is up for reelection in November. The state has recently become light red in its political hue, with Romney ahead of Obama in a state poll (49%-42%). However, McCaskill currently trails all three of her potential GOP foes (the Republican Party has its primary in August) and against former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, McCaskill trails 51% to 39%. Living in a Missouri media market, I can say that the conservative Crossroads GPS group has had an enormous number of anti-McCaskill and Obama ads on television over the last few months that focus on the strong ties between McCaskill and Obama. Obviously, it is playing well among Missouri voters.
The measurable gap between McCaskill's numbers and those of Obama may be indicative of local Democratic voters' lack of enthusiasm going into the November election, which could lead to lower Democratic Party voter turnout and therefore lower turnout for Obama. Perhaps not just in Missouri, but in other states as well.
Over in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, U.S. House Representative Mark Critz has announced that he will pass on attending the Democratic Convention. While Obama leads in Pennsylvania polling, he received a rather disappointing number of votes in the uncontested Pennsylvania Democratic Primary. Could this be foreshadowing of November turnout among Democrats in Pennsylvania?
This general apathy among Democratic voters was illustrated best in West Virginia, where more than 40% of the Democratic voters picked an incarcerated felon over Obama in the State's Democratic Primary. Add to this that the West Virginia Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, along with two of the State's U.S. House Representatives, are skipping the Democratic Convention, which is less than a five-hour drive from West Virginia's capitol.
The lack of enthusiasm for Obama among West Virginia Democrats may especially point to voter apathy among white Democratic voters. West Virginia has one of the lowest populations of blacks and Hispanics among all the states. Among the twelve states the WSJ/NBC News poll labeled as "battleground states", eight of them (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and New Hampshire) are considered to have low to moderate Hispanic election influence, while just four of those states (Florida, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico) have major Hispanic voting influence. Although Obama polls exceptionally well among blacks and Hispanics, it may not help in much in several battleground states.
The recent Supreme Court decision upholding ObamaCare could very well also add to a general lack of interest among Democratic voters, especially the non-Hispanics. After all, how many additional votes will Obama garner from his Supreme Court victory? Very few, given that a large majority of the roughly 1/3rd of Americans who favor ObamaCare are likely to be voters for Obama anyway. Had the Court overturned ObamaCare, perhaps these voters would have been more invigorated to head to the polling places this November. If anything, the Court's decision seems to have ignited the conservatives and Tea Party Republicans.
So, while Obama may still poll ahead of Romney, his voters may not be as excited about getting out to vote for him and a recent Pew Research Center poll confirms that notion. That poll, released in late June, found that 73% of Romney voters had "given a lot of thought to the election", while only 63% of Obama voters declared the same. These results are quite different than those from June 2008, when 75% of Obama voters had "given a lot of thought to the election" and 73% of Republican voters were engaged.
These numbers may show some weakness in the Obama campaign. Certainly the black and Hispanic vote will overwhemingly be for Obama, the Hispanic vote strengthened even more by Obama's recent immigration Executive Order. But in many of the swing states, critical to victory, those populations are much less. Therefore, Obama's slim lead in the national polls may not be as strong as it appears and may not equate to electoral victory as it stands now.
Chad Stafko is a writer and political consultant living in the Midwest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.