Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Popular is as Popular Does

I laughed out loud at lunch today when I read this article in the LA Times, Clinton outshines Obama as campaign trail surrogate, poll finds:
According to a Gallup Poll released Tuesday, more voters of all political persuasions said they were more likely to back a candidate if Democrat Clinton campaigned for him or her, than if the campaigner were President Obama, who is fighting to keep Democrats in control of Congress.

The poll found that 53% of Democrats said Clinton’s personal endorsement would carry weight compared to 48% who said Obama’s would. On the negative side, 5% of Democrats said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate if Clinton campaigned, while 6% said they would be more hostile if it were Obama. The differences between those numbers translates into what the poll said was a net of 48 for Clinton and 42 for Obama.

Clinton and Obama fare less well with Republicans and independents but the former president, free of the burden of actually being in office and having to make tough decisions, again gets the edge. Neither Democrat carries much weight with either group, but Clinton is less hurtful by a ratio of about 2 to 1 among Republicans.

Among independents, 21% said they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate who was baked by Clinton compared to 12% who said the same about Obama.

So, more of the party faithful prefer Big Dog, far more of the Independents like Bill than like Barry, and even the Republicans give him a grudging edge, though I'm not sure that's a number I'd want to pursue. The again, given the whackitude of their party at present, I can see the last few Republican moderates preferring a moderate Democrat who was adept at confounding their own rabid right. Bill Clinton with his internal negatives is still more popular than The Precious with only his positives on the board.

What this poll provides is a measure of culture politics. Obama's policies are less progressive, more overtly conservative and more conciliatory towards the opposition than Clinton's. On the merit of the legislation, he should be more popular with Independents (who tend to be socially liberal and economically conservative) and Republicans. But where he fails - where the Stevensonian cultural elite has always failed - is with making a case to the voters who defected to Reagan but came back under Clinton, who can be swayed by an appeal to their economic self-interest, but who bristle at cultural elites (be it Poppy Bush or The Precious) disdaining their guns, their gods and their games.

It is this same cultural disdain, made more bitter by the oblivious exercise of economic privilege, that raises hackles over food politics. Diet soda is to be taxed, but not flavored mineral water? Candy bars have a sin tariff, but "energy bars" are OK? As long as you can pay premium, we won't ask to see the contents of your shopping cart.

It doesn't seem to get through to the power brokers that the party rank and file love Bubba not despite his flaws but because of them. Or maybe it does, and they realize that grass-roots popularity comes from policies and plans that improves grass-roots bank accounts at the expense of those higher up the economic food chain. A popular populist champion may be the last thing they want to see.

In the meantime, some party candidates have figured out that it's in their interests to hang out with the popular guy.



Koshem Bos said...

Big Dog has everything Obama pretended to have and doesn't.

Clinton talks as equal with any group while Obama emits unjustified and unqualified elitism.

Clinton fights with immense intelligence and charisma. Obama shies away from fights and maneuvers clumsily and slowly in the shadows.

Even Democrats show disdain for Obama; People admire Clinton and highly respect his great talents.

But then, some of us knew all that in 2008.

Bob Harrison said...

Wonderful! I will steal a paragraph if you don't mind.

A little night musing said...

This is why I read you. You get it.

I was a poor single mother during the entire Clinton (and most of the Reagan) administration. I was objectively better off under Clinton. I voted third party in 1996, angry over welfare "reform" and trying to send a message.

I've since become convinced that "messages" never arrive. But I've come to appreciate the things WJC did for me.

If I had it to do over, I'd still vote third party in 1996, and I'd still say that WJC is one of the best. (Along with the much-maligned JC. He gave a pardon to all the Viet Nam era draft avoiders as practically his first presidential act, 21 January 1977. I knew at that point it was only a matter of time...)

A little night musing said...

Oh, and what Koshem Bos said.

Never thought I'd say that.

Bill Clinton has an AMAZING ability to connect with people. I've always admired this. That the PFKD doesn't make more use of this, well, I regard as evidence that they don't care about winning votes.

(People really should read Stephens's dissent in Citizens United, which is brilliant and sensible (As the majority opinion is NOT), and realize how distorted our politics is now.)