Brian Birdnow

The Romney campaign scored a sorely needed victory and a jolt of energy last Wednesday night, and many election watchers, including many Townhall readers earnestly hope that this will have some staying power. Many liberals are hard at work trying to explain Obama’s fumbling performance away as a fluke brought about by thin Rocky Mountain air or some such foolishness. This new spin is forcing the Left to temporarily shelve the narrative that they have been attempting to impose on the 2012 election, which is relatively simple and deceptively straightforward. To wit: The American voters do not necessarily support President Obama’s policies, but they like Obama on a personal level. As the new mantra goes, “…While the American people do not support all of President Obama’s initiatives, he remains personally popular with the public.” The media tells us that this salient fact makes Obama an even money bet to win re-election.

A more enduring and time-tested theorem of the political scientists is the old standard that people vote with their pocketbooks in the Presidential elections. This has proved itself true for well over a century starting in 1896 and continuing in 1920, and 1932. The pocketbook-voting phenomenon can be seen much closer to our own time, as well. Ronald Reagan’s 1980 rout of Jimmy Carter owed mostly to the economic troubles of the age, and Bill Clinton hammered away at what he called the worst economy in fifty years in the process of toppling George H.W. Bush in 1992. There have been certain exceptions to the rule, but the voters tend to stick with incumbents in good times like 1984 and 1996, but throw them out in bad times, or perceived bad times.

In one month the American voters will go to the polls to select a president. Here we will witness a train wreck of sorts, a wreck in which one of these mantras will prove durable and the other will be exposed as an illusion. This election shapes up as a referendum on President Barack Obama’s administration and his stewardship of national affairs, as is the nature of every re-election campaign. The people will decide whether their supposed personal affection for Obama outweighs the fact that the country is indisputably worse off that we were in 2008. Thus, one of the competing epigrams will be exposed as a hoary myth on November 6th.

The Obamaites and the uninitiated will question the above assertion. Let us take a look at the facts. Last week the financial news agencies reported that gasoline prices are at their highest autumn levels ever, with prices expected to increase another 20-25 cents per gallon in the coming weeks. The national price is more than twice as high as it was on January 20, 2009, which, of course, was Obama’s inauguration date. Lest we forget, this is the president who said, as a candidate, that he wished gasoline prices had not risen as fast as they did, but has resisted taking steps to increase production to curb prices. He has also stated that the USA should ban Sport Utility Vehicles, and who admitted that his own energy plan would cause the price of electricity “…to necessarily skyrocket”. Yet, we are told that the American people personally like Obama!

On the larger economic questions the picture is equally bleak. Government statistics report that 17% of the American people are on food stamps. Officially over 23,000,000 Americans are out of work and a recent fact check run just after last week’s debate showed that non-governmental (private sector) jobs in America have decreased by 300,000 during Obama’s term of office. Even the loudly trumpeted news of last week that unemployment had declined to 7.9% masks the reality that unemployment stood below seven percent in December of 2008, the time of the Obama transition. Still, Obama remains personally popular with the American people!

What about government spending? Obama began his term with his massive $788 billion stimulus plan, which, with smaller amounts added at various times, became an $862 billion stimulus plan. If a Townhall reader, or any person, spent one million dollars a day, every day, starting on the day that Jesus Christ was born, that individual would have spent slightly over $ 767 billion dollars today. (Do the math if you question these figures!) Therefore, one who spent at that rate would still have nearly a hundred billion to get through simply in order to have spent the Obama stimulus, not to mention the other eight trillion bucks that Obama has burned his way through. This spending spree has been financed by over five trillion in government deficits, and in two downgrades to the USA credit rating by the world financial markets. But…the American people, we are told, like Barack Obama.

In foreign policy the picture is no brighter. Despite Obama’s hope that sometimes being mistaken for a Muslim and impersonating one in speeches (see his Cairo speech) would foster a sense of kinship in the Islamic world, Obama’s Middle Eastern policy is now a shambles that even makes Jimmy Carter look good by comparison. The US Ambassador to Libya has been murdered, other US embassies are menaced by armed mobs and former American allies like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are turning against us. Meanwhile, the President still refuses to use the word “terrorist” and ducks out of meetings with the Israeli Prime minister so he can make time to yuk it up with media lapdogs like David Letterman, and preen once again with the mindless ladies on “The View”. However…we are told that the American people personally like Barack Obama!

Finally, we can observe the campaign itself. President Obama gleefully plays the class warfare card, insisting that Romney is too rich to understand the difficulties and problems faced by ordinary Americans. It matters not that by applying such a standard evenly Obama would effectively disqualify both of the Roosevelts, JFK, and more recently John Kerry from the presidency. This might also have pushed out the Virginia aristocracy, John Adams and son, and possibly self-made men like Abraham Lincoln, Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. The recent revelation that President & Mrs. Obama are worth $8.3 million has caused them not a moment’s embarrassment and has not dampened the class warfare rhetoric at all. Yet… the American people personally like Obama!

It is entirely possible that the mainstream media has engaged in politically motivated myth making when touting Obama’s supposed popularity. The President often shows a marked tendency to arrogance on the one hand, and petulance on the other, neither of which traits is particularly endearing. It might be that Obama is not so popular as the media contend. Possibly though, it is time to think about the unthinkable. Could candidate Romney have been right when he said that 47% of the electorate would never vote for him?

This number is no random figure flung into the mix for the sake of argument. Political Scientists who have studied the traditional and recent voting trends in national elections have come to the determination that the generic Democratic candidate will receive between 47-48% of the popular vote, while the generic Republican candidate will receive around 45%. The remaining votes are up for grabs and will decide the election. This is very likely the origin of Romney’s widely panned comment about “The 47%”. He meant the nearly half of the electorate who vote Democratic out of tradition and conviction. The Democratic character assassins and their media allies know this, but they prefer to sketch out preposterous tales about the GOP accusing half of their countrymen of being deadbeat loafers and writing off their votes.

On November 6th the American voters will decide this question and lay to rest one of the two competing bromides. Do Americans vote with their pocketbooks, or do they really like Obama more than they cherish their own security? Mr. Romney’s startlingly strong performance in debate last week has been duly noted, and might prove to be the spark his campaign needed. Obama, however, is a master practitioner of the art of rhetorical flim-flammery and might pull this thing out by telling gullible people what they want to believe so that they will vote to re-elect him. If the professors are right, Romney will win. If the media are right, and if the worst comes to pass, we’ll be in for four more years of decline and despair, not hope and change.


Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.