Like other enterprises, a presidential administration is the management of limited resources towards the achievement of certain ends. One of those ends is public relations, an area the Obama Administration has been accused of neglecting. As Obama and company have plied away at healthcare, student loan reform, financial reform, green energy production, etc... a brigade of conservatives has been trying to squeeze his successes through their little collection of attack templates like a Play-Doh press - "It's going to kill jobs, it's a scandal, it's unconstitutional, blah blah blah." The fear felt by Obama supporters is the danger that some of this unanswered propaganda seeps out of the FOX vacuum into the political center which is where a president's approval is boosted or eroded. Instead of fighting a battle of noise, Obama's strategy has been to devote time and energy to getting more things done. Judging by some fair coverage of him recently which has classified him as a significantly consequential lame duck, he must have managed his resources optimally.
In spite of attempts to chip away at American confidence in Obama, he maintains about the same level of approval he had at this point in 2012, the year he won reelection. Though he is prohibited from seeking a third term, it makes it easier for the Democratic hopefuls looking to succeed him and for once, those hopefuls aren't allowing themselves to be baited into running away from the Democratic incumbent. Sanders, Clinton, and O'Malley have boasted ample acreage of common ground between them and Obama. Also notable is Obama's confidence in weighing in on the candidates as he did in a Politico interview published earlier this week. The poli-terati fell over itself to report that the prez "put his thumb on the scale" for Hillary in that sit down. Actually, Obama spoke favorably of both candidates, but spent a little more time praising Clinton. And then the plot thickened.
Following the interview, Bernie Sanders had a highly publicized meeting with Barack Obama in the White House. While the genesis of the get-together was a mystery, one can infer that Sanders wanted to control any perceived advantage Clinton may have earned by elbowing into any proximity to Obama. Sanders emerged from the meeting giving a vague menu of the discussion and giving assurances that Obama was maintaining an even hand between the candidates. If Obama was any kind of damaged goods, this would not be happening. By contrast, Bush was interviewed by Politico in May of 2008 during the full swing of that year's campaign and the only candidate mentioned by name (and it was by the interviewer) was Hillary Clinton. Also, Bush's March 2008 endorsement of McCain was more of an exercise in bearing ritual discomfort than it was an anointing for the eventual Republican nominee. By the time the Republicans had their convention, Bush was so unpopular, he made his appearance by video link.
So we have the candidates speaking highly of the president during the debates. We have the president speaking highly of both candidates and spending more time to lavish praise on the front-runner. We have the second-runner meeting with the president days later with ample publicity. This is historic. When have Democratic candidates been so eager to suck up to the outgoing Democratic president? It hasn't happened in my lifetime. There is, if you will, Oba-momentum (sorry) which, even if it isn't "felt" or quantified by the average middle-of-the-road American on a day-to-day basis, it will when the race heats up.
I avoid making predictions for being made a fool by the myriad of unforeseeable variables. Then there are some rare predictions that I deem safe. One of those safe predictions is that at the upcoming Democratic convention, there will be a sitting Democratic president and a former Democratic president who will be treated to exceptional adoration. It had been the Republican goal to have gnawed away at Obama's standing by the end of his presidency. They have succeeded to an extent. The contrarian drone of FOX News does make its way out of the bubble creating a real world shift. FOX has also been complicit in fortifying Congress with Republicans whose positions would be threatened if they cooperated with Obama (and then blame Obama for not cooperating with them). Yet here we are. There are Democratic fingerprints all over his coattails which is quite extraordinary.
When Bernie Sanders announced his 2016 presidential run, I made the safe prediction that he would be underestimated. Touting the odds against a Vermont socialist was money for the 24/7 non-expert "news" chatterboxes because it meshed with the impressions of the casual observers, most of whom were not familiar with Sanders to begin with. Sanders is the latest politician to show that just because you're unfamiliar with someone does not mean they don't have juice.
Less than a month from the Iowa caucus, Sanders has pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton in polling there. I have no prediction of who will win in Iowa. I really couldn't care less. The outcome is not worth the endless coverage it gets mainly because the first contest in the country doesn't have any notable track record for picking the eventual nominee (Rick Santorum, anyone?). The most value I get out of Iowa is how it can throw things into disarray at the last minute after months specualtive narratives.
What makes me want to throw in my two cents at this point is how Hillary is choosing to fight back against her slump in the polls. She is slugging upward at Sanders with warnings that he wants to raise taxes to roll all of our health care programs into one. It's such a curious attack coming from someone who I sometimes believe is a cunning operative. It's strange to me because (bear in mind, I've never been to Iowa) Iowa Democrats strike me as somewhat sophisticated. They don't scare easily. Hillary Clinton should know this better than anyone else having been beat there before by young, new, untested (and not to mention, black) Barack Obama in 2008. In spite of this, she has chosen to try to win them over by branding Sanders as a tax-and-spend liberal, a tactic that is traditionally more effective on Republican and independent voters.
With this shift in attack, Clinton has brought upon herself more reason for voters to be skeptical of her. Declining numbers are a tough enough wall to scale, but how you claw your way back can make things worse. Her going after Sanders on health care only reminds progressive Iowans that Sanders is concerned about health care. This is not to say that this public strategy is not paired with some other behind the scenes siege. There's no doubt, she got ground game. It would be wiser for her to stick with that front rather than go after Sanders for being a progressive.
|Trying to ride the middle put his campaign in JEB!-erdy.|
|Opinions are like assholes... and so are these three because sometimes you can't believe the shit that comes out of them.|
|Just wait 'til she uses that same server as president.|
|It's so communist, even the leaves are turning red.|
|Super Soakers exempt.|
|Oh wait. Marco's allergic. Can we agree on a unicorn figurine?|
|It barely beat out "For Nothing, Against Everything."|
|Can you hear me now?|
|When Bobby said he had an announcement, he couldn't have been talking about his failed presidential bid.|
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