The shine is off. Recent tracking polls have shown the president’s popularity trending downwards under 50%. And both Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen show President Obama in tight races with Republican front-runners, and even with some non-Republican front-runners.
The most striking notes: Sarah Palin, the woman who many allege absolutely could not beat Obama, comes within three points in the Rasmussen poll and eight in the Public Policy Polling poll. And even more surprising, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) comes within eight points on Public Policy Polling.
Yes, the 75-year-old Texas congressman is nearly as close to Obama as John McCain was in 2008. This suggests a growing number of Americans, as of this moment, would vote for anyone over Barack Obama.
A year ago, it was very different for Obama, who couldn’t wait to actually get sworn in before giving regular addresses to the nation. Obama was a great campaigner, a well-polished speaker, and a youth celebrity figure who inspired a best-selling song that became a YouTube sensation (and one of Obama’s favorite songs). A year later, if Rasmussen is to be believed, the Democrats are on the verge of a political cataclysm, with the GOP having built a 7-point lead on the generic ballot.
Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) is expressing his frustration, saying he’s tired of “covering Obama’s can,” and has some pointed advice: “The president could take a few pages from Lyndon Johnson’s book … and start knocking heads together.”
Conyers is wrong — the president can’t. During his four years in the U.S. Senate (which he spent running for president), Obama didn’t acquire the legislative “skills” Lyndon Johnson did during ten years as a member of the Senate leadership. If the Democrats had wanted someone who would be effective moving legislation, they picked the wrong guy. They picked a solid candidate who could excite crowds and raise money. They didn’t choose someone who could make good decisions and move bills.
What’s the lesson for Republicans in 2012? Simply put, the goal of the nominating process is not to pick a good candidate; it’s to pick a good president. The problem with political folks is we tend to imagine the presidential campaign as the Super Bowl of politics, when it isn’t even opening day.