Boy, it seems like it was only yesterday that Obama was cheered as the end to Clintonian triangulation. Does Obama have serious problems with the base? Bob Brigham seems to think so:
If Obama were leading the Democratic Party in accomplishing good things that made voters' lives better, an increase in Obama numbers could be seen as a sign that Obama could have coattails, that his popularity would bring Democrats along for the ride.
Unfortunately, Obama seems to be pursuing a different strategy. Instead of leading Democrats, Obama is triangulating against the Democratic base. This became clear in the administration's failure on health care turning into attacks on the left.
For Obama, health care seems to be following a model of raising the president's approval at the expense of depressing the base during the midterms. Everyone on the ballot this fall with a 'D' after their name should be alarmed by this:
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been telling Democrats a win on the health issue will reverse the slide in public opinion, just as passage of another controversial proposal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifted President Bill Clinton in the polls.
This is triangulation at its worst. This is personal gain at the expense of the party.
There is a reason Obama campaigned on the public option and against mandates, instead of vice-versa. Same with his pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. Yet now, instead of Democrats being able to campaign on the popular public option, Democrats will have to play defense as to why they raised taxes on middle class health care plans while turning the IRS into the bagman for some of the most hated companies in America.
In conclusion, Obama isn't in good shape. Halfway through the midterms, Obama as coach is giving a lockroom pep talk that is little more than "we couldn't have done any better in the first half because our team is so bad." And his strategy in the second half appears to be focused on making himself look good even if it is at the expense of the rest of the team. Which means even if he does start looking better in the polls, it might not be good news for Democrats in 2010.