Can Obama’s likeability save him from defeat?

posted at 4:01 pm on July 13, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Peter Beinart seems to think so, but he’s taking the wrong lesson from 2004.  In a column today at The Daily Beast, Beinart recalls how he got the contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry wrong, and tries to extrapolate the lesson into 2012:

Back in 2004, I debated Jonah Goldberg about the presidential election. Bush will win, Jonah said, because after sniffing both of these guys for a while, Americans have simply decided they don’t like Kerry very much. Nonsense, I said. Likeability is in the eye of the beholder. Most Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Democrats have the demographic advantage. But I was too clever by half. Jonah was basically right.

Eight years later, something similar may be happening. Conventional wisdom suggests that an incumbent presiding over a people this unhappy should lose. According to a June poll by the Pew Research Center, only 11 percent of Americans think the economy is “excellent” or “good.” Only 28 percent (PDF) are “satisfied with the way things are going in the country.” Americans think (PDF) the country is on the “wrong track” by a margin of almost two to one.

And to a significant degree, they blame Barack Obama. A January Pew poll found that only 38 percent approve of the way he’s handling the economy. On the budget deficit, only 34 percent approve. On energy, it’s 36 percent. When asked in June which candidate is best capable of “improving economic conditions”—clearly the election’s dominant issue—Pew found that Mitt Romney bests Obama by eight points.

Yet despite all this, about as many Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing as disapprove. And he leads slightly in the polls. Which is to say, there’s a yawning gap between how Americans feel the country is doing and how they feel Obama is doing. There’s even a significant gap between the way they feel about Obama’s performance on key issues and the way they feel about his performance overall.

It’s an interesting argument — if all things were equal.  However, as much as Team Obama wants this to be a replay of 2004 (they’ve even drafted John Kerry into playing Romney for Obama’s debate prep), the political environment is much, much different.  Kerry only contended because of growing unhappiness with the war in Iraq.  Republicans countered with a base-turnout election strategy by fighting for social-conservative issues in down-ballot initiatives.  Both strategies worked because the economy was rapidly improving from what turned out to be a mild recession.

By this point in the summer of 2004, these were the economic indicators:

  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%
  • Civilian participation rate: 66.1%
  • Job additions in previous quarter: 640,000
  • GDP growth in previous two quarters: 2.6%, 2.7%
  • ISM index (manufacturing):60.5

Now, let’s look at those same indicators eight years later:

  • Unemployment rate: 8.2%
  • Civilian participation rate: 63.8%
  • Job additions in previous quarter: 225,000
  • GDP growth in previous two quarters: 1.9%, 3.0%
  • ISM index (manufacturing): 49.7

Back then, Kerry campaigned on the so-called “jobless recovery,” but that’s actually taking place now.  The economy didn’t have the central and overwhelming focus for voters in 2004 as it does now.  Soft measures such as “likeability” aren’t going to move the needle significantly — and if they did, Obama wouldn’t be finding himself below 50% in every poll, in virtual or actual ties with his less-well-known Republican challenger.

Obama certainly hopes that he can win an election on that basis.  It’s one of the reasons why his campaign has gotten so desperate to paint Romney as an unfeeling corporate raider that they’ve explicitly accused him of being an uncharged felon this week.  That, however, won’t distract voters from the failures of Obamanomics — and it might even erode those likeability numbers that Beinart and other Democrats hope will rescue them from an ignominious defeat in November.

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I think American voters might be dumb enough to re-elect Obama.

In fact I vow to eat an entire bag of wasabi peas if they don’t.

DarkCurrent on July 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM

They would have to be the really, really spicy ones for that to mean anything! Sadly, I think you are right about the stupidity of the American voters.

Night Owl on July 13, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Likeability my behind!

Most of the people I know despise the man.
If someone is polled and asked if they “like” Obama as a person,
of course, they are going to say “yes”. Of course, none of us
know Obama as a person (and really don’t care to either).

Saying “yes” means you are a fair and reasonable person according
to whomever, I don’t know. Then when they get to the guts of
the questions, one responds with “heck, no, Obama is a lousy
president”.

The only ones who “like” Obama are the ones getting the free stuff
from his thug regime.

Amjean on July 13, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Obama’s ‘likeability’ is a media myth. He’s about as likeable to me as a French waiter, full of disdain and condescension. Considering his big influences, Saul Alinsky, Bill Ayers and Derrick Bell. He’s a Trojan Horse, an enemy of the Constitution and the American way of life. About as likeable as Rod Blagojovich.

flataffect on July 13, 2012 at 5:18 PM

Amjean on July 13, 2012 at 5:15 PM

I totally agree…

RedInMD on July 13, 2012 at 5:20 PM

If the public doesn’t think Obama is likable on election day and vote him out, then every single poll that’s surveyed the question has been wrong.

I can’t recall an instance when every single poll has been wrong.

gumbyandpokey on July 13, 2012 at 4:27 PM

Can you recall a time when you weren’t a repetitive, whiny bore? I sure can’t.

Chuck Schick on July 13, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Lot’s of people liked Al Capone.

BobMbx on July 13, 2012 at 5:20 PM

He’s a lying, disingenuous, thin-skinned, arrogant, mean, nasty, insulting, snobbish, narcicist. What’s not to like?

crazy_legs on July 13, 2012 at 4:26 PM

A lot of the same adjectives I would use. Obama’s likeability is a media-created myth.

TarheelBen on July 13, 2012 at 5:21 PM

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many formerly ‘in the tank’ libs I know personally who have now turned on the dog-eater with a vengeance. Barky’s “likeability” has come to mean squat.

And, we’re talking seriously dropped-on-their-heads-as-babies liberals with extremely limited ability to utter any statements indicating original thought outside the usual hive-mind huffpo talking points. I find it encouraging.

Harbingeing on July 13, 2012 at 5:27 PM

…what is there to like?

KOOLAID2 on July 13, 2012 at 5:37 PM

It finally hit me. He isn’t Nero.

He’s Caligula.

Cody1991 on July 13, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Only without the fun.

trigon on July 13, 2012 at 5:42 PM

A reasonable number of dems I talk to aren’t fond of Obama, … I got chastised for being against the ACA because I was told, in effect: “You have big business insurance, you don’t care about the rest of us”.

Violina23 on July 13, 2012 at 5:07 PM

So every Democrat you know is unemployed or works for some charity that doesn’t offer health insurance ?!? That seems exceptionally unlikely.

The great “uninsured” crisis in this country is completely overblown. As is the idea that if those people could just get preventative care, health care costs would go down. Nonsense.

Health care costs are high because its all effectively paid for by someone else. You go to the doctor, it costs you $15, $25, maybe $50. When you go the the ER, it costs you maybe $500, when the insurance costs in ten times that much.

The “uninsured” are not denied needed health care. And as much as they are, so are people who ARE insured.

This issue is nothing more than that same kind of lame class warfare that Obama and the Democrats have perfected for years.

deadrody on July 13, 2012 at 5:47 PM

All you need to see is that picture of Obowma with his nose in the air…

Seven Percent Solution on July 13, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Likeability? Are you kidding me? There is absolutely nothing likeable about this narcissistic liar.

rjh on July 13, 2012 at 5:48 PM

‘likability’ whaaat, what’s there to like about this SCOAMF…

jimver on July 13, 2012 at 6:01 PM

I bet most people don’t like him but are afraid of being called racist. Thank God for the secret ballot.

Cindy Munford on July 13, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Likeable? Really? Obama’s likeability is more polling mythology. Nothing likeable about the man. Most of us can’t stand the sight of him let alone listen to his rhetoric.

BetseyRoss on July 13, 2012 at 6:15 PM

What are voters going to say?

The economy stinks; I can’t find a job; gas is $3.50 a gallon; my kids have moved back home; my house is under water; I won’t be able to retire; and my savings are drained. But I really like Obama. He gets my vote!

The left lives in a fantasy world. Barky is toast.

jrgdds on July 13, 2012 at 6:21 PM

I fail to see what is likable. Charlie Rangel has charisma but Obama comes off as an insincere blowhard.

CW on July 13, 2012 at 6:30 PM

WTF.
Who are these people that like this POS?!
WTH is there to like?
OH yeah I forgot. His skin color.

Badger40 on July 13, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Little Bammie’s likeability is a manifestation of Bradley-Wilder. It’s a default position to keep the respondent from letting the pollster think that they might be a racist. Meaningless.

In any case, looking at little Bammie I don’t see anything likeable.

slickwillie2001 on July 13, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Take my house, take my job, take my car, take my food, take my savings, take my equity, take my 401k.

But it’s okay. I still like him!

/

This idiot is doomed and he knows it.

Key West Reader on July 13, 2012 at 6:32 PM

All you need to see is that picture of Obowma with his nose in the air…

Seven Percent Solution on July 13, 2012 at 5:47 PM

I used to think that his ‘nose in the air’ pose was an homage to Mussolini, but after his history of chooming came out, and his habit of ‘roofing’ in cars to get all the marijuana smoke, I think he is just reliving his wasted youth.

slickwillie2001 on July 13, 2012 at 6:34 PM

WTF.
Who are these people that like this POS?!
WTH is there to like?
OH yeah I forgot. His skin color.

Badger40 on July 13, 2012 at 6:30 PM

A lot of people lie to pollsters.

For some reason I get polled frequently, probably because I have a listed number. I lie, lie, lie, lie telling them how much I loves me some Obama. I’m an independent (lie) I’m a democrat (lie) I will vote for Obama (lie).

It’s actually kind of fun.

Key West Reader on July 13, 2012 at 6:34 PM

“— and it might even erode those likeability numbers that Beinart and other Democrats hope will rescue them from an ignominious defeat in November.”

I agree Ed that Beirnart is not taking into effect the recent scummy road Obama’s campaign/media apparatus has taken that will erode his likeability, not ‘might erode’ his likeability.

I think I can speak for most good Americans, that I’m sick to death of this racism canard that is constantly being trotted out on an almost daily basis in an organized fashion by MSNBC, Daily Beast columnists, NAACP alumni, Democrat surrogates and campaign employees on behalf of Obama.

Obama has turned over his campaign messaging to a group of people that have a putrid, rotting, deeply hateful belief system and that can only reveal two things:

1) they are carrying out a message that was truly in Obama’s heart, that being anyone who disagrees with him or debates his policies is defacto a racist OR
2) Obama’s leadership is so limp and tepid that he has lost control and is letting these scummy messages out.

Obama’s campaign/media apparatus’ racism canard is so bad for America and to lie with such élan and piety it’s sickening to watch. Also it’s a disgrace that Obama’s messages for the American people are based on lies, provable lies.

Obama and these scab pickers (my name for the collective group of the far left media apparatus that promotes Obama) need to be told by all Americans to stop these ugly tactics now.

All American people need to say enough, WE ARE DONE accepting this racism canard and we are not going to take it anymore!

sheryl on July 13, 2012 at 6:37 PM

The “Bradley Effect” was mostly a pollsters way to excuse his screw up, but I think it does apply when people are asked, “Is Obama likable?” Think about it and it should be obvious.

VorDaj on July 13, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Reminds me of the corporate diversity training BS that I’ve had to put up with more than once. One of the huckster’s trainer’s questions that you had to answer was “would you date a black woman (or man)”. The correct answer of course is yes, and you better shut up after that because anything further you say will be ripped apart.

slickwillie2001 on July 13, 2012 at 6:39 PM

All American people need to say enough, WE ARE DONE accepting this racism canard and we are not going to take it anymore!

sheryl on July 13, 2012 at 6:37 PM

The label of ‘racism’ has lost its sting. Everyone’s a racist. So let’s all be racist and get rid of Obama. Even the blacks and latinos are racist. If disagreeing with communism, statism, marxism makes me racist, then I’ll wear that label like a badge of honor.

Key West Reader on July 13, 2012 at 6:46 PM

slickwillie2001 on July 13, 2012 at 6:39 PM

I worked in HR in the early 1980′s before I chose my path. When hiring potential candidates they came up with some sort of testing “scale”. Blacks were scored differently than Whites and Latino’s.

Back in the affirmative action days. Affirmative Action is what birthed the obama and his wife.

Key West Reader on July 13, 2012 at 6:49 PM

What’s with the picture, is The Won holding Kerry back?

Cindy Munford on July 13, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Economic indicators are raaaaacist.

Physics Geek on July 13, 2012 at 7:40 PM

Who believes Obowma is likable? THAT IS A MYTH FROM PHONY POLLS.

He is a jerk that disregards America’s failing under his watch.

dthorny on July 13, 2012 at 7:57 PM

Given the Dumb-Mass Hopeium smokin’ voters in this country, I wouldn’t be surprised.

TheClearRiver on July 13, 2012 at 8:06 PM

Can Obama’s likeability save him from defeat?

Umm, who likes him? I mean for reelz?

karenhasfreedom on July 13, 2012 at 9:02 PM

Behold the mind numbing power of pigment……thats all nObama has, what a F’n joke we have become!

dmann on July 13, 2012 at 10:10 PM

I’d like to see him lose by a landslide.
I’d like to see him frog marched out of our house under arrest.
I’d like to see him in an orange jumpsuit.

Likeable? I could like him, under the right circumstances. (see above)

gordo on July 14, 2012 at 12:14 AM

It finally hit me. He isn’t Nero.

He’s Caligula.

Cody1991 on July 13, 2012 at 4:24 PM

You hit it exactly! When “Little Boots” became emperor the people loved him as they had loved his father, who died an untimely death. He was essentially the handsome John Kennedy come to take up where his father had left off. At first Caligula’s reign appeared to be what the Roman people had hoped, but as time went on all that changed. His behavior and policies became ever more bizarre and harmful. The treasury was emptied. The energies of the military wasted. When he was assassinated the Romans breathed a collective sigh of relief —except of course those who had benefited from the corruption.

Sound a little familiar?

claudius on July 14, 2012 at 2:46 AM

Who’s more unlikable, Øbama or Johm Kerry?

Now that’s a tough one.

petefrt on July 14, 2012 at 7:39 AM

Ha! Likeable. He’s a socialist robot and always has been. People have, from the very beginning, voted for him because of his supposed mystique and artificial legend. That, or they felt obligated to vote for him because of race and/or politics. For the media to even suggest Obama’s likeability could help him would be almost akin to them saying that Zeus has blessed him.

R. Waher on July 15, 2012 at 5:04 AM

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