Poor President Obama. He’s had a rough couple of weeks. First, his high-profile surrogates Bill Clinton and Cory Booker sounded dangerously critical of his policies; then, the Wisconsin recall blew up in the left’s face. Now, his own progressive base is so unhappy with him, they’re thinking they just might stay home this November.
Republicans attack the president as a big-government liberal. Many liberals meeting Thursday at Netroots Nation — it describes the annual convention as “a giant family reunion for the left” — argue instead that Obama hasn’t fought hard enough for progressive priorities on taxes, health care and the economy.
Even more problematic for the president: With the election just five months away, some are threatening not to donate money or time or even vote in November for the man who overwhelmingly ignited their passions and captured their imaginations four years ago.
“I want to be happy with him,” said Democrat Kristine Vaughan, a 45-year-old school psychologist from Canton, Ohio. “But I am finding that he has succumbed to the corporate influence as much as everyone else. I think he has so much potential to break out of that, but overall he has been a disappointment.”
The sentiment is not unique among the 2,700 people gathered on the first day of this three-day convention. More than a dozen liberals interviewed here indicated some level of frustration with the president, despite widespread praise for his recent decision to support gay marriage and ongoing push to scale back military action in the Middle East.
Lost fervor within the base is exactly what Obama doesn’t need right now. Small donors comprised about a quarter of his fundraising efforts in 2008, and with the advent of Super PACs, he’ll need as much help as he can get to raise as much money as he did last time. Not to mention the latest numbers, which had him trailing Romney and the RNC in fundraising totals.
Those who do still plan to vote for Obama, however, report that they’re less willing to put in the same sort of get-out-the-vote effort that they displayed last time. Indeed, part of Obama’s victory in 2008 stemmed from increasing voter mobilization, and while the die-hards will trudge to the polls in November, they’re less likely to work quite so hard to encourage others to do so, too.
Given recent swing state poll numbers, however, the lack of enthusiasm has to hurt even more. Purple Insights’ latest polls have Obama and Mitt Romney locked in a dead heat, with Romney coming up on top in states like Ohio and Florida. And in Michigan of all places -- you know, where Obama's auto bailout is the most popular policy evah -- Romney leads POTUS by a point. As MSNBC was wont to say this past Tuesday, it’s too close to call.
No, things are not looking too good for our president right now. He’d best be hoping for a change in his base’s enthusiasm level; otherwise, he’s looking at trouble come the fall.