There is currently much talk in knowledgeable circles about what effect President Obama’s administration is going to have on Democratic candidates and incumbents in the coming midterm election cycle. Frequently voiced concerns include an anticipated negative influences because of the president’s “declining poll ratings.”
Will Obama’s declining ratings have a negative impact on the polls? This rhetoric is self-serving to Conservatives, as it opportunistically positions a given negativity into the question. The fact is that his ratings are not actually in decline, they are just stagnant – not noticeably improving over the past several months. The real question is not whether declining ratings will hurt Democratic chances. It is whether the president’s popularity will decline or rebound significantly. Don’t bet against the latter.
For all of his supposed inexperience going into the 2008 campaign, President Obama is now an experienced veteran of the political wars that define our federal government. And before 2008 he wasn’t exactly the neophyte that the opposition painted, either.
If the election were held tomorrow we could evaluate the effect of current ratings on the results. But the election is in November, not tomorrow. Ratings go up and ratings go down. This president is the first in history to effectively utilize social media to win an election.
He is also the first to motivate minority voter turnout in massive numbers. And he is also experienced at dealing with the whims and vagaries of a stubborn obstructionist Congress the likes that our nation has never before seen. All of these factors are intrinsically tied to ratings and how to manipulate them. So, what should we expect from him in the months ahead?
Plan of action
Our now-experienced president fully realizes his popularity can have an impact on the midterm election. The seven intervening months will require four quantitative boosts in his ratings to erase the threat of his “doing damage” to Democrats in November. We can hypothesize these ratings boost without much difficulty. President Obama will need two or more key announcements, and two or more major initiatives launched.
The party of a sitting president has a distinct advantage over the candidates of the other major party. The most striking advantage is the president’s ability to use his office for major public announcements that are timed specifically to influence things like poll ratings. The party out of power typically refers to this advantage as the president’s “bully pulpit.”
As it happens, there are a number of important decisions that have not yet been made by the Obama’s administration. These can, and will, be released when the timing is most effective for improving Democratic Party ratings in advance of the election.
One of the more important of these is the official authorization or de-authorization of the Keystone XL Pipeline completion. Two more involve NSA access to private records and the highly sensitive issue of gun control.
And bearing in mind that sweeping changes are not actually necessary for any of these announcements to have a positive effect on ratings, they could even be relatively minor announcements and have the needed influence since the issues are so highly charged and publicly debated.
While announcements can have impact, a true initiative that involves some real action can have a measurably greater influence. Several possibilities exist here, as well.
A new initiative from the White House on Climate Change could work wonders for presidential popularity and boost Democratic chances in the midterms. Climate Change denial is a clear weakness for Conservatives, marking them as anti-science, and anti-environmental. Another possibility might involve new directions in the administration’s policies on energy.
Even more interestingly, we could see a major announcement involving genetically modified organisms in our food supply.
The possibilities are many, and the “bully pulpit” remains available to swing voter sentiments at whatever time is right. The news brings new opportunities every week for presidential announcements and proclamations.
With Russia’s Putin on the verge of extending military aggression in Europe, Obama has a golden opportunity to voice American condemnation for his actions, and support for a European response to curb any further aggression.
Possibilities exist for changing the focus of debate to things such as voter intimidation, equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, and other equally popular notions that run against the grain with the current Republican Party. Focus can be drawn on everything from specific Conservatives under scrutiny to the generally supported anti-Tea Party obstructionism.
Presidential ratings move both up and down. Currently stagnant at a level that is not very attractive, the odds are good that any motion could easily be in a positive direction.
With the assistance of a president obviously experienced in utilizing the timing of his announcements, there is every reason to believe those ratings will be positively influenced at key intervals from now up until November. Decisions already in the pipeline are ripe for inclusion in this plan to support Democratic victories in the elections.