The Republican Party must feel like they are in spring practice. Just like it’s been a while since college football teams wore their pads and played in a bowl game, the GOP must get reacquainted with the rigors of campaigning and can no longer rely on the playbook from and memories of the last mid-term election.
In less than twenty months, America will provide its referendum on both President Obama’s administration and the GOP’s performance as the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives. So at this point, how does the nation view President Obama?
In a nutshell, the nation appears split on how the president is performing. For example, polling company Rasmussen reports an approval rating of 46% for President Obama, with 23% of individuals polled strongly approving of his performance. According to Rasmussen, a total of 53% of individuals polled do not approve of the president’s performance, with 39% strongly disapproving.
Gallup puts Mr. Obama slightly ahead on polling, though not by much. Gallup has 47% of Americans approving of Mr. Obama’s job performance, while 45% do not approve. RealClear Politics cuts it closer. Taking an average of the results from leading pollsters, the RCP has Mr. Obama’s approval ratings at 48% while his disapproval ratings are at 47.4%. Yes, that close.
So why are Americans sitting on the fence when it comes to Mr. Obama? Part of the reason may have to do with perception of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East. In a column for Rasmussen Reports, Tony Blankley describes Mr. Obama’s “democracy” policy as “manifestly adrift.” One minute Mr. Obama is supporting democracy in his June 2009 speech in Cairo. The next minute, he fails to throw support behind the election protests in Iran, according to Mr. Blankley.
Another source of concern among Americans may be the nagging question of how in touch with America is Mr. Obama. According to Rasmussen Reports, 61% of Americans see the president as more liberal than they are. In addition, most voters do not think that the president’s proposed budget contains enough spending cuts, while 50% of voters oppose new spending in areas like education, transportation, and technological innovation.
While Mr. Obama’s position cannot fully be described as precarious, there appears to be some openings that the GOP can take advantage of, particularly on the economy and foreign affairs. The GOP, however, have their own share of negatives that apparently keep them from heading to the end zone.
First, the Republicans as a party have no leadership. Speaker of the House John Boehner has been seeing his leadership challenged from the Tea Party element of the GOP. Just last week, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips stated his preference for Mr. Boehner’s defeat in the 2012 primaries. Mr. Phillips believes that Mr. Boehner has not delivered on promises of substantial cuts in government spending.
Staying on the theme of leadership in the GOP, typically at this stage of campaign season, the GOP should have anointed a front-runner, and based on 60 years of history, the anointed front-runner would go on to win the Republican nomination. Right now, there is a three-way split for front-runner status with a tie among former governors Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney.
Ironically, while Mr. Romney’s street cred lies in his business skills as a former corporate executive, Mr. Huckabee and Mrs. Palin have been basing their approach to governance on social conservative values and philosophy, an approach that seems out of touch with the number one concern of Americans: the economy.
The social conservative approach, however, seems more in touch with the desires of the social conservative base of the party, and more than likely will be the prevailing platform for any strategy in 2012.
Given that Speaker Boehner will not be able to get promised spending cuts past the Democratic Party-controlled Senate and Messrs Huckabee and Romney and Mrs. Palin have yet to articulate an alternative to Mr. Obama’s foreign or domestic policy, the only strategy the GOP appears prepared to pursue is one based on which candidate is more socially in touch with America. Fortunately for the Republican Party, there is still time to come up with something better.