The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway is that President Obama has tacked to the center following the Republicans’ sweep in November, and that his more moderate approach, exemplified by yesterday’s budget deal, is positioning him favorably for re-election, much like Bill Clinton in 1996.
Perhaps. November 2012 is, in political terms, a very long way off, and predictions are more or less useless. But Obama faces some serious challenges in persuading voters to give him another term. Those challenges are exemplified by current polling data.
Only 28 percent of likely voters say that they share Obama’s political views, while 57 percent say Obama is more liberal than they are. Of course, that might not be fatal if voters believe that Obama’s policies have been successful. (I haven’t tried to dredge up the old poll data, but I’m pretty sure that in 1983, most voters said President Reagan was more conservative than they were, yet he won re-election in a landslide because it was obvious that his policies had been successful.)
Here is Obama’s problem: in addition to disagreeing with him in principle, a large majority of voters don’t believe his policies have worked. Currently, only 9 percent of American adults (not voters) rate the economy as excellent or good, while 56 percent say it is poor. This explains why Obama’s approval ratings are falling among Hispanics and African-Americans.
There is still quite a bit of time for Obama to convince swing voters that he is a moderate and that his policies are effective, but he has a high mountain to climb.
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