Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Is Obama Underachieving?

Crossposted on Reapers Playground MYDD

I probably don’t need to tell many readers here that there’s a new and potentially divisive argument being mooted – that Obama is underachieving, and that ANY democratic candidate would be doing as well as him at this stage, if not better.

So you’ve heard this meme on other sites? It was actually first mooted by none other than Karl Rove on Face the Nation in early August:

With a restive electorate, with an economy that’s sort of chugging around, with a war in the background, at the end of eight years of Republican rule in the White House, Obama should be way ahead.

Well, people can have their motives to agree or disagree with the statement. But let’s not just rely on partisan pundits on the blogosphere. What does a noted polling expert have to say..?

Mark Schaffner at takes this argument head on

The conventional wisdom put forth by political pundits is that Obama should be winning this election by huge margins. The argument is that with a weak economy and an unpopular president, the Democratic nominee should be “crushing” the Republican nominee and the fact that Obama hasn’t had double-digit leads throughout means that there must be something wrong. But how well should the Democrat really be doing in this race? Is Obama really underachieving as much as most people assume?

He then tests out the ‘any dem candidate would do well’ theme with various political science models. The conclusion he comes to?

(Emphasis my own)

Despite the fact that pundits have claimed that Obama is not performing as well as he should be given the economic and political conditions, the models used by political scientists to predict election outcomes–models based on these very conditions–tell a different story. Obama is currently out-pacing the predictions made by some models and lagging only a few percentage points behind others. But his support does not stray more than 4.2% away from any of these predictions. Thus, there isn’t much support here for the notion that Obama is greatly underachieving in this election.

OK. With this out of the way, what’s the next way to attack our winning democratic nominee?

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  1. sanguine giant

    Kissy Monster called him Anti American, and some wing nuts think that the Ohio State Flag is the Obama potentiate flag (I saw this on Rachel maddow).

  2. Mystylplx

    I remember when the narrative was that he didn’t have a chance. The Republican attack machine was going to crucify him. Rezko and Wright and Ayers were going to be the weight around his neck that dragged him down. His race was going to prevent him from being seriously considered. His lack of experience was going to be insurmountable. His candidacy was just a dream brought on by too many doses of the Obama kool-aid…

    And now that he’s well ahead of course the narrative has changed to some version of, ‘We knew it all along, in fact he should really be winning by even more.’ Funny that. If he were behind they’d be saying, ‘See? I told you so.’

    Conventional wisdom aside, McCain had an opportunity to use this economic crisis to his advantage. He’s the solid, reliable, experienced candidate. He could have made a good argument that he was the safe choice in these troubled times. Why take additional chances when everythings hitting the fan. But the plain fact is Obama has done a better job of convincing people that he is the one with the expertise and solidity to handle this crisis. That wasn’t automatic in his case. He earned it.

  3. spacemanspiff

    Did you guys check out the alyssa chaos diary?

    We’ve moved into the second phase of the campaign which is just making sure we win before this even starts. Our main goal is to make sure Barack has a huge lead going in to Nov. 4 by getting people to submit their absentee ballots and voting early. Every Sat. til the election we are holding mock Nov. 4’s to ready ourselves. Everyone here has specific jobs for Nov. 4, it’s a huge operation they’ve set up down here and we aren’t allowed to really talk about it [I contend the name of the operation should be Obama fight Club but no one ever wants to listen to the intern.]

    At this point though we think that Barack Obama has won Southern New Mexico, but we don’t know by how much. We want it to be a blow out of epic proportions [McCain doesn’t even have offices down here. Apparently he doesn’t go this far South].

    I read a diary on Kos about 2 hour long lines to vote near a college campus in some swing state which I’m to lazy to look up now.

    This is going to be a landslide!

  4. They were using these same talking points in 2006.

    In the lead-up to the 2006 mid-term elections, Ann Coulter claimed that the Democrats had made “pathetic gains”. Here’s something I wrote shortly after those elections:

    In early October, Coulter started spitting out her talking points: On October 3rd, she  claimed that, since the average mid-term election post-World War II resulted in the opposing party gaining 40 seats, the Democrats would need to gain 60-70 seats in order to have REALLY won the election. Anything less and it would practically be a loss! In fact, according to Coulter, if the Democrats couldn’t win at least 60 to 70 seats in the House, “then they may as well, you know, go away as a party”.

    Surprisingly, according to Coulter, the Republicans should have simply “gone away as a party” after the Republican Revolution in 1994: After all, they only managed to pick up 54 seats in that mid-term election.

    Unsurprisingly, Coulter was even lying about the “facts” she was basing her dubious conclusion on: The actual average pick-up during a mid-term election post-World War II is actually 25 seats. You’ll note that the Democrats’ actual gain in seats is, in fact, well above that average.

    This is a tried-and-failed method for the Republicans to try to de-legitimize what will be a staggering Democratic victory in two weeks. And we have to keep working to make it even larger!

    (If it’s tried-and-failed, why are they still pushing for it? God knows. The Republicans seem to be specializing in tried-and failed “solutions”.)

    The best answer to this Rovian inanity is to win big. 60 senate seats is looking possible. We will dramatically expand our lead in the House. And if Obama wins every state that is currently listed as a Tossup at (which is not improbable — among tossups he currently trails only in Indiana), he would have a 200+ edge in the Electoral College that would be pretty much impossible to ignore.

  5. Name one other African American who would be handing McMaverick his butt?  

    Let’s keep things in perspective.  It is easy for Partisans/Political Junkies like us to forget that Obama is a black guy.  For the “hard-working Americans, white Americans” who didn’t like Obama too much back during the Clinton insurrection, an AA president is a bit of a harder sell.  The fact that Obama is getting these people on board now says a lot about Obama as well as the current circumstances of the race.

    Let’s also remember that John Edwards’ name is now mud.  If he were the nominee we would be up sh!t’s creek right.  Anything can happen in politics.  We don’t know what oppo research the R’s had on Clinton.  Maybe it was a game changer, I doubt it, but you never know what is going to stick.  

    Also, I remember the Clintonistas whining for months about the bad press coverage that Clinton got.  Does anyone think that would have gotten better if she had won the nomination?  

    • NavyBlueWife

      nice to see you here…the idea that obama is some sort of battery bunny is foreign to me…some people are just never happy…but me, I’M EXCITED about Nov. 4 for Obama and all our Dem downticket races, the candidates have been working hard and so have all of their volunteers!!

    • Kysen

      Yes…Rezko, Wright, Ayers….Kool-Aid, Cult, Messiah….during the Primaries, I thought it would never end.

      And, I fully expect to witness all sorts of contortions as those who so fervently wished that they would be saying “See? I told you so” in November….will be trying to prove how what they did/are doing actually HELPED Obama and teh Democratic Party.

      Don’t know if that run-on sentence makes a lick of sense but I’m not changing it cuz I don’t wanna.

      Good on ya.

    • sricki

      Excellent to see you’ve ventured over!

      And yes, I think this is where we see the true bitterness of many of those who opposed him so strongly during the primaries. Every side had its talking points — as a Clinton supporter, I certainly had mine, including his “inexperience” and a Democrat’s general vulnerability to the GOP attack machine, which could — of course — only be overcome by a Clinton. ; )

      The pundits, of course, will spin it however they can to turn nothing into something, but it’s amusing to see Obama’s detractors still trying to make excuses and push these talking points. At least they’ve been modified (by necessity), so it’s slightly less boring. Well. Not really.

      But hey, less than three weeks now.

      Hope you stick around, by the way. It’s likely to be an increasingly bitter final few weeks on the front page of MyDD.

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