Handicapping the Handicapped
Mary Katharine Ham just nails the problem with President Obama's new "rally the coalition" video:
In this video, he is Barack Obama. He is the man whose problems are still inherited. He is the man who fights the health insurance companies... whose product he's requiring that every American buy, battles the big banks... who bankrolled his campaign, and stifles special interests... with whom he meets behind closed doors to hash out deals on legislation. And, he posits, all of this should inspire those who voted for the first time in 2008 to vote again on behalf of all the uninspiring Corzines, Deedses, and Coakleys who will in some unspecified way guarantee the uplifting change at sometime in the unspecifed future that Obama himself has not delivered. Fired up and ready to go!
I finally watched the thing, to see if MK was right -- and she was. And Obama's problem here is twofold. First, the point Ham raised in the graf above: charisma is poor currency. You can't just stuff it into someone else's pocket. And there are lots more Corzines, Deedses and Coakleys in need of an infusion before November 2. At least 93 of them, according to the latest RCP poll averages for the House and Senate races. Add another handful if you want to include gubernatorial races.
That's a whole lot of campaigning between now and 11/02/2010, and time and again Obama has proven that the only person he campaigns for effectively is himself.
Now watch his new video, or at least some of it.
What was that I said about charisma being a poor currency? Even so, Obama appears not to have much of it left. For a "rally the troops" pitch, it doesn't have a whole lotta hoo-ah. Instead, he comes off as cold and uninspired.
The polls models for off-year elections always included depressed turnout among the young, the poor, and minorities -- three groups the Democrats need desperately. But, two things are different this time. 2010 is the first midterm since Obama's community organizing skills increased the registered voter rolls by 30% -- almost entirely youth, poor, and minorities. And since they're first-time voters, we just don't know how they'll turn out in their second election. Worse than the typical Y/P/M voter? Better? Can't say.
And then there's the 30% of the electorate who voted in 2004, but not in 2008.* People who had just become disgusted with the choices offered us two Novembers ago, people who had just gotten sick of Washington in general and both parties in particular. A lot of them have become Tea Party people -- energized and ready to vote, early and often. But others might still be too disgusted to bother.
The reason I expect the Democrats to get spanked like The Gimp this fall is: The Tea Party is spontaneous and energetic, while the Democrats can't even make an inspiring YouTube clip to stimulate their base. That's a hell of a handicap to have in a year when the energy and motivation is all on the other side.
*Yes, there were millions more registered voters in 2008 -- almost all of them going for Obama. But the total number of votes cast wasn't much higher than in 2004. Which means that nearly 30% of the 2004 electorate couldn't be bothered to pull a lever for Obama or McCain. I'd like to see some numbers on Tea Partyers on how many of them voted in '04 but not in '06 or '08. Because you can pretty much count on every single one of them voting in '10.