Friday, March 7, 2008

Obama hitches his wagon to wrong issue..polls show it's still the economy, stupid

'stwo reasons for running for President, the Iraq War and a new non-partisan politics seem to be missing the mark with voters. While Obama's campaign was quick to blame dirty, negative campaigning for their three state loss last Tuesday, the real reason for that loss seems to be that Obama was campaigning on the wrong issues. From Paul Krugman in the NYT on March 7, 2008: "Yet for the time being, public optimism about Iraq is rising: 53 percent of the public believes that the United States will definitely or probably succeed in achieving its goals. So anger about the war isn’t likely to be decisive in the election.

The state of the economy, on the other hand, could well give Democrats a huge advantage — especially, to be blunt about it, with white working-class voters who supported President Bush in 2004.

Even at its best, the Bush economy left most voters unimpressed: only once, in January 2007, did a slight majority of those questioned by the USA Today/Gallup poll describe the economy as “excellent” or “good,” rather than “only fair” or “poor.” A year later, only 19 percent of voters had a good word for the economy.

This collapse in economic confidence has occurred even though the full economic effects of the implosion of the housing market and the freezing of the credit markets have yet to be felt. As more things fall apart, perceptions will only get worse.

All of this should work to the Democrats’ advantage. They can contrast the Clinton boom with the Bush bust; they can make the case that Republican economic ideology, with its fixation on privatization and deregulation, helped get us into this mess.

And John McCain can be ridiculed as a man who has declared on a number of occasions that he doesn’t know much about economics — only to insist, straight-talker that he is, that he never said any such thing.

But first, of course, the Democrats have to settle on a nominee. And the shift in electoral focus from Iraq to economic anxiety clearly plays to Mrs. Clinton’s strengths.

According to exit polls, Mr. Obama narrowly edged out Mrs. Clinton among Ohio voters who consider Iraq the most important issue — but these voters cast only 19 percent of the ballots in the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton led by 12 points among the much larger group of voters citing the economy as the most important issue — and by 16 points among those who cited health care. Mrs. Clinton’s winning margin was twice as large among those who were worried about their own financial situation as among those who weren’t.
Why has Mr. Obama stumbled when it comes to economic issues? Well, on health care — which is closely tied to overall concerns about financial security — there is a clear, substantive difference between the candidates, with the Clinton plan being significantly stronger.

More broadly, I suspect that the Obama mystique — his carefully created image as a transformational, even transcendent figure — has created a backlash among those unconvinced that he’s interested in the nuts-and-bolts work of fixing things. Ohio voters were more likely to say that Mr. Obama inspires them — but more likely to say that Mrs. Clinton has a clear plan for the country’s problems."