Andrew Romano takes apart the supposed “Obamacan” movement of Republicans who support Barack Obama for President. As Romano notes in Newsweek, the appearance of Lincoln Chaffee — who is no longer a Republican anyway — and a couple of previously-committed endorsers yesterday doesn’t exactly make a movement. In checking the polls, the actual motion comes from the other direction:
But are there enough rank-and-file Republicans whispering their support at Obama rallies to actually make a difference on Election Day?
As I discovered from examination the last 18 months of head-to-head general election polls, the answer is an emphatic “no.” In fact, John McCain’s share of the Democratic vote has typically been larger than Obama’s share of the Republican vote. In other words, it’s not that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scared the Obamacan masses off, as some pundits have theorized–it’s that they never existed (in any unprecedented way) to begin with. In December 2006–before the unfamiliar Illinois senator had officially announced his candidacy–McCain attracted 25 support among Dems versus Obama’s eight percent among Repubs, according to a FOX News poll. Those numbers tightened over the next few months, but Obama never established a sustained lead. A February 2007 Quinnipiac survey showed McCain with 17 percent crossover support, for example, versus nine percent for Obama; in a June 2007 sounding by the same firm, McCain still led 15 percent to 11. During primary season–between December 2007 and April 2008–McCain’s Democratic number hovered between 18 and 22. Obama, meanwhile, never climbed higher than 13 percent.
The latest announcement amounts to nothing more than a repackaging of previously-known support. It might have helped Obama keep his toes in the media water while vacationing in Hawaii, but it won’t move other Republicans to follow suit. Chaffee announced after his failed re-election bid that he was leaving the Republican Party, and would have done so even if he’d won. Most Republicans were happy to see him leave.
Are there a few Republicans supporting Obama? Sure, but there are a lot more Democrats supporting John McCain, and that has shown in every national poll. It’s not terribly surprising, since McCain has actually worked across the aisle — to his own party’s consternation at times — on contentious issues. Obama has built no credibility with Republicans in this manner, and in fact has never taken a political risk in his Senate career by supporting a piece of legislation or appointment that his party opposed.
Obama’s continuing reference to Obamacans is part of his effort to paint himself as the Democratic Ronald Reagan, who changed American politics by drafting large numbers of Democrats into the Republican ranks. Obama wants people to think of himself as a similarly transformational figure, but right now he’s having trouble hanging onto Democrats, let alone sweeping vast numbers of the opposition to his standard. Reagan didn’t pick up Democrats by running to his left in the general election, either; he ran on solid conservative and common-sense themes, and people flocked to his integrity and clear vision of an America freed of the shackles of an overwhelming federal bureaucracy.
Obama’s vision is almost the exact opposite, which is why the Obamacan is still an endangered species.