Dem pollsters: It's Hillary time

For Democratic Party pollsters Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen, the Obama administration has become a political Amityville Horror.  Barack Obama’s approval numbers have plunged, and his options for campaign strategy in 2012 range from going negative to, er, going medieval.  Caddell and Schoen offer the same advice to Obama as the house gave in Amityville Horrorget out:

Certainly, Mr. Obama could still win re-election in 2012. Even with his all-time low job approval ratings (and even worse ratings on handling the economy) the president could eke out a victory in November. But the kind of campaign required for the president’s political survival would make it almost impossible for him to govern—not only during the campaign, but throughout a second term.

Put simply, it seems that the White House has concluded that if the president cannot run on his record, he will need to wage the most negative campaign in history to stand any chance. With his job approval ratings below 45% overall and below 40% on the economy, the president cannot affirmatively make the case that voters are better off now than they were four years ago. He—like everyone else—knows that they are worse off. …

One year ago in these pages, we warned that if President Obama continued down his overly partisan road, the nation would be “guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it.” The result has been exactly as we predicted: stalemate in Washington, fights over the debt ceiling, an inability to tackle the debt and deficit, and paralysis exacerbating market turmoil and economic decline.

If President Obama were to withdraw, he would put great pressure on the Republicans to come to the table and negotiate—especially if the president singularly focused in the way we have suggested on the economy, job creation, and debt and deficit reduction. By taking himself out of the campaign, he would change the dynamic from who is more to blame—George W. Bush or Barack Obama?—to a more constructive dialogue about our nation’s future.

Who would come to the party’s rescue?  You get three guesses, and the first two don’t count:

He should abandon his candidacy for re-election in favor of a clear alternative, one capable not only of saving the Democratic Party, but more important, of governing effectively and in a way that preserves the most important of the president’s accomplishments. He should step aside for the one candidate who would become, by acclamation, the nominee of the Democratic Party: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

We’ve covered this scenario a few times here at Hot Air, too.  Such a move could very well produce a movement of suburban and rural Democrats back into the fold, the voters that Obama has driven off.  However, there would also be a danger of alienating the urban progressives who still see Obama as their best hope for gaining a policy advantage, and who do not recall the Bill Clinton administration with as much fondness as other Democrats and the media do, thanks to his triangulation on welfare reform and spending policies.

As Chris Cillizza reports this morning, that urban-progressive base is still significant for Obama:

One of the most persistent story lines for the president has been that the liberal left has grown increasingly dissatisfied with his actions (or inaction) on some of its priorities — including single-payer health insurance, the extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts and whether to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But an examination of the polling data among key subgroups that constitute Obama’s base makes clear that he has as much support from them as any modern president seeking a second term.

“There is one immutable fact about President Obama’s reelection chances: Nobody has a more solid 44 percent base than he does,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart wrote in a not-entirely-uncritical memo assessing the state of political affairs a year out from the election.

As evidence, Hart noted that in the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Obama takes 44 percent in a three-way race with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) running as an independent; has a 44 percent job approval rating; and has a 45 percent positive personal rating. In the same survey, 45 percent said they “probably” will vote for Obama in 2012.

At the heart of the president’s enduring strength among his base are African Americans who have never wavered in any meaningful way after 95 percent of black voters opted for the Illinois senator in 2008.

I’d be careful about putting too much stock in the media polls, whose partisan skew in sampling makes them fairly suspect (and which always gets corrected in the final poll or two before an election, mysteriously), but it still shows that Obama has a significant base of support.  Coming as it does from African-American voters, there would be a big question as to just how transferable that support would be to Hillary Clinton.  If these voters see the Democratic Party pushing out the first African-American President in favor of the wife of the last Democratic President, how enthused will they be to come out and vote in November 2012 for Hillary?  I’d guess … not terribly so.

All of this depends on one more factor, which is Obama’s willingness to withdraw.  I doubt seriously that even a march down Pennsylvania Avenue by Democratic  Party elders to tell Obama that he’s through would get this President to pull an LBJ or Truman and pass on another term.  In other words, the horror continues.