Michael Barone had an interesting column today discussing President Barack Obama’s path to reelection and how well he fared in the 2008 election.
But it’s worth taking note of what he has squandered. In 2008, Obama won 53 percent of the popular vote. That may not sound like a landslide, but it’s more than any other Democratic presidential nominee in history except Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
Higher than Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland, higher than Harry Truman and John Kennedy, higher than Jimmy Carter and (but don’t bring up the subject with him) Bill Clinton.
Why have so few Democratic nominees won 53 percent or more, as 10 different Republican nominees have? The historical reason is that the Democratic Party has been an unruly coalition of disparate groups — big-city Catholics and Southern whites for the century after the Civil War — which usually has been hard to hold together.
I found it fascinating that only 3 democratic presidential candidates received a higher percentage of votes than Obama did in 2008.
He later goes on to discuss Obama’s popularity in several contested states and states Obama won in a land slide.
At the moment, the only states where polls since June show Obama with job approval as high as 50 or 51 percent are those where he got 60-plus percent in 2008, plus New Jersey, where he got 57 percent.
Those are enough to get him up to 200 electoral votes, 70 short of a majority.
It is often hard for me to comprehend how the political climate has changed since 2008. I have never been an Obama supporter, but I guess following his election I had hoped that he would live up to his best rhetoric; that maybe he could change this country for the better; that our doubts about him would be lifted. I remember his speech in Iowa following his victory in the caucus.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
“It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.
“It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
Today even I long for some of the things Barack Obama promised in 2008, and for the things many assumed he stood for. Even many of the people who voted against him were willing to give him a chance. But the text of his speech above is incongruent with the rhetoric from the current man occupying the White House.
If those who supported the president in the earliest stages of his campaign on a message of hope and unity were able to look through a window into the present time, I wonder if they would feel disillusioned and turn away. Even as a conservative Republican and frequent critic of the president, I can’t help but feel an opportunity has been lost.