Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Choice vs referendum

Conventional wisdom says that a presidential race that includes an incumbent is most often a referendum on the incumbent's record more than a choice between two candidates. There's probably some truth to that. It was clear that - with no incumbent - 2008 was a choice between failed Republican strategies and a chance for change with Obama. However, to the extent that you believe George Bush won in 2004, I would question whether or not that was a referendum of the extent to which voters believed in Bush as much as it was about questions the right wing were able to exploit about Kerry.

At this point in the campaign - with no clear Republican candidate - we need to remember that all of the media hype about the race is centered on it being a referendum on Obama's presidency. That's what caught my eye in the lede from Max Blumenthal's commentary about yesterdays polling.

Two new polls released on Tuesday confirm that the summer's debt ceiling debate along with the drumbeat of bad economic news have taken a toll, yielding all-time low ratings of both President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress and suggesting real peril for Obama in 2012.

Notice how the low ratings for Republicans in Congress doesn't seem to be part of the equation. It's true, President Obama isn't running against Congress. But that just makes my point, doesn't it? Right now that's who he's being compared to. When we actually have one Republican candidate out there making a case to the general public, we'll see a better picture of the contrast.

Here is where the Republican strategy of obstruction might come back to haunt them. With the Palinization of their brand, they have crystalized the fact that this is likely to be an election about our choices.

That, my friends, is the result of our President's conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy. The Republicans were offered the opportunity collaborate in governing or paint themselves into an extremist corner. They chose the we have a clear choice.

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