Obama weighs in on the cam­paign

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Kelly Rid­dell

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has over­seen six of the 10 most po­lar­ized po­lit­i­cal years on record, de­fined as the delta be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats on the ques­tion of pres­i­den­tial job ap­proval.

Yet, he can’t wait to hit the cam­paign trail with Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Mr. Obama wants to “ex­plode onto the scene,” a White House source told CNN Wed­nes­day, adding he’s “chomp­ing at the bit to get out and ‘get peo­ple fired up’” and “knows his power” is to en­er­gize the Demo­cratic base.

And Mrs. Clin­ton, who’s fa­vor­a­bil­ity num­bers have dropped to his­toric lows within her own party, is anx­iously await­ing his help.

Com­pare that to the dy­nam­ics of the 2008 elec­tion.

Eight years ago, Mr. Bush served as a po­lit­i­cal pariah to Ari­zona Sen. John McCain, who tried to run as a po­lit­i­cal mav­er­ick, dis­tanc­ing him­self from the image of a thirdBush term. Mr. McCain sought Mr. Bush’s en­dorse­ment only for his po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing net­work — and it was re­ported as such. And there’s no won­der why. Head­ing into elec­tion day, 62 per­cent of Amer­i­cans thought the econ­omy was the most im­por­tant is­sue, and 93 per­cent said it was bad. There was the col­lapse of Lehman Broth­ers, the bailout of AIG, and Mr. Bush us­ing $700 bil­lion in tax dol­lars to shore up Wall Street bankers.

Two-thirds of the na­tion thought the Iraq War was a mis­take and 80 to 90 per­cent said the coun­try was on the wrong course.

The main­stream me­dia treated Mr. Bush vis­cer­ally, and the pun­dits were even worse.

And Mr. Bush did noth­ing to de­fend him­self. He never was as po­lit­i­cal a pres­i­dent as Mr. Obama, pre­fer­ring in­stead to stay above the par­ti­san fray, to his and his party’s detri­ment.

“I still cringe at some of the things that were said about him dur­ing that cam­paign,” Dana Perino wrote of the 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, when she served as Mr. Bush’s press sec­re­tary. “We had been in­structed to ig­nore the at­tacks and not get in the mid­dle of any po­lit­i­cal fights.”

For by the fall of 2008, Mr. Bush had not only lost the left — they were never go­ing to be on his side — but he also lost the right, in both his con­ser­va­tive and mod­er­ate base.

Ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Study con­ducted mid­way through Mr. Bush’s sec­ond term, Mr. Bush’s ap­proval rat­ing among Repub­li­cans who de­scribed them­selves as mod­er­ate or lib­eral dropped 25 points, with his con­ser­va­tive sup­port de­clin­ing 15 points.

Mr. McCain was un­able to make up for Mr. Bush’s losses, and failed to hold onto the share of white work­ing class vot­ers that were once in Mr. Bush’s coali­tion. Mr. Bush’s legacy also served as a drag on Mitt Rom­ney’s pres­i­den­tial con­test in 2012. This is not the case with Mr. Obama. Al­though la­bor-force par­tic­i­pa­tion is dis­mal, real-me­dian in­come has dropped, and food-stamp re­cip­i­ents have surged un­der his watch, Mr. Obama trav­eled to Elkhart, In­di­ana on Wed­nes­day — a city he vis­ited dur­ing his first year in of­fice in 2009, in the midst of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis — to tout his eco­nomic record, in full-cam­paign mode.

Nearly half of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion op­pose Oba­macare, and mul­ti­ple press re­ports have de­ter­mined the health poli­cies of­fered un­der the pro­gram this year had higher pre­mi­ums, fewer doc­tors, and thin­ner cover­age than be­fore, threat­en­ing the pro­grams over­all vi­a­bil­ity.

Yet, on the sixth an­niver­sary of his sign­ing of the Af­ford­able Care Act, Mr. Obama took a vic­tory lap, cit­ing on Medium that “for the first time ever, more than 90 per­cent of Amer­i­cans have health in­sur­ance.”

The Unied States re­mains in active com­bat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria — and has been at war through­out Mr. Obama’s en­tire pres­i­den­tial term — yet he’s an­nounced the with­drawal of forces sev­eral times dur­ing his pres­i­dency, declar­ing the con­flicts over.

There’s lit­tle doubt Mr. Obama has in­flamed par­ti­san di­vides — much like Mr. Bush — but there’s one thing he’s done that Mr. Bush never did: Main­tain his base.

Mr. Obama has uti­lized his bully pul­pit for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, telling half-truths, and the left is bet­ter off (if not a lit­tle more delu­sional) for it.

Mr. Obama’s cur­rent job ap­proval rat­ing among Democrats is 83 per­cent. Mrs. Clin­ton, on the other hand, has fa­vor­ables around 43 per­cent.

Based on his­tor­i­cal av­er­ages, if a can­di­date doesn’t have a fa­vor­able rat­ing of at least 80 per­cent within their own party, they don’t win the White House.

Given the sky-high un­fa­vor­ables of both Don­ald Trump and Mrs. Clin­ton that prob­a­bly won’t hold true this elec­tion cy­cle.

But one thing is for sure: Mr. Obama has a bet­ter chance at help­ing Mrs. Clin­ton shore her base among Democrats than Mr. Trump does, on his own, among Repub­li­cans. Kelly Rid­dell is a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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