Friday, September 7, 2012

September 7, 2012

Lackluster Obama: Change is Hard, Give Me More Time
by Guy Benson
September 7, 2012

I'm genuinely surprised.  Obama's speech was remarkably, almost shockingly, flat and mediocre.  We've heard iterations of that speech many times before, but this one felt phoned in from start to finish.  The audience was ready to explode, but they never really had the chance.  I kept waiting for it to pick up, but it never did.  This hall was much louder and more engaged during President Clinton's address last night.  The president again talked about hope and how times have changed.  He essentially urged voters to "stay the course," even as a large majority of voters believe our current course is badly awry.  He served up a series of warmed-over promises, even as scores of already-issued ones lie unfulfilled.  We were told he'd discuss entitlement reform with some specificity.  He did not.  He took a few shots at Republicans, but most of those seemed dialed back.  He battled against the same straw-men he's been knocking down for years, to little effect.  One of the only new passages I heard was his discussion of scapegoating, in which he equated people frustrated with federal mismanagement and waste with rank bigots:
We don't think government can solve all our problems. But we don't think that government is the source of all our problems - any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles. Because we understand that this democracy is ours.
This was "bitter clingers" redux, offered in defense of sprawling government.  Almost entirely absent from the speech was significant mention of the jobs crisis, voters' top concern.  He also mostly ignored Obamacare and the stimulus, his two signature first term agenda items.  Where was his plan for another term?  More teachers, increased energy independence and green jobs?  That's it?  I eagerly anticipate the inevitable RNC video comparing this speech with Obama's refrains from 2008.  It'll underscore the more-of-the-sameness that filled this building tonight, and dropped with a thud.  The most memorable line for me was "I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the President."  You could have fooled many of us, Mr. President, given your constant campaigning and fundraising.  Honestly, I don't even have the vigor to rebut some of Obama's more egregious distortions because I've done it before -- (ahem) literally.  Press row is morose.  Reporters are trying to reassure each other that the speech "wasn't that bad."  MSNBC is subdued.  On CNN, James Carville allows that this wasn't Obama's best speech.  On Fox, Charles Krauthammer calls the speech the "emptiest" in recent memory.  A woman in the concourse half-shouts, "fired up!"  No one replies.  This election will be hard-fought and close, no doubt.  Obama could very well win.  But tonight was a major swing and a miss for a guy known for his homerun speeches.  Does anyone who watched that speech have a clear idea of what's next, or what his plan is to achieve this mysterious "forward" vision?  Meanwhile, 23 million Americans are out of work or underemployed.  The debt is at $16 Trillion and counting.  Poverty and food stamp usage are at all-time highs.  Middle class incomes are down.  Obama wants four more years, but why?  This now looms even larger.

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The Party that Obama Un-Built
by Kimberley A. Strassel 
September 6, 2012

Julian Castro is no Barack Obama. And for that, Democrats have themselves to blame.

The focus of this week's Democratic convention was President Obama. Lost in the adulation was the diminished state to which he has brought his broader party. Today's Democrats are a shadow of 2008—struggling for re-election, isolated to a handful of states, lacking reform ideas, bereft of a future political bench. It has been a stunning slide.

The speech by Mr. Castro, the young and charismatic mayor of San Antonio, was the Democrats' attempt to recapture the party optimism that then-Senate candidate Obama sparked at the 2004 convention. John Kerry didn't win, but that year marked the start of an ambitious Democratic plan to revitalize the party.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg on President Obama's recent decline in the polls and whether he'll get a bump from the convention. Credit: Associated Press

In 2006, Nancy Pelosi muzzled her liberal inclinations to recruit and elect her "Majority Makers"—a crop of moderate and conservative Democrats who won Republican districts and delivered control of the House for the first time in 14 years.

Democrats in 2006 also claimed the Senate, with savvy victories in states like Montana and Virginia. The party thumped Republicans in gubernatorial races, winning in the South (Arkansas), the Mountain West (Colorado), and in Ohio (for the first time since 1991). A vibrant candidate Obama further boosted Democratic ranks in 2008.

By 2009, President Obama presided over what could fairly be called a big-tent coalition. The Blue Dog caucus had swelled to 51 members, representing plenty of conservative America. Democrats held the majority of governorships. Mr. Obama had won historic victories in Virginia and North Carolina. The prediction of liberal demographers John Judis and Ruy Teixeira's 2004 book, "The Emerging Democratic Majority"—lasting progressive dominance via a coalition of minorities, women, suburbanites and professionals—attracted greater attention among political analysts.

It took Mr. Obama two years to destroy this potential, with an agenda that forced his party to field vote after debilitating vote—stimulus, ObamaCare, spending, climate change. The public backlash, combined with the president's mismanagement of the economy, has reversed Democrats' electoral gains and left a party smaller than at any time since the mid-1990s.

Of the 21 Blue Dogs elected since 2006, five remain in office. The caucus is on the verge of extinction, as members have retired, been defeated in primaries waged by liberal activists, or face impossible re-elections. The GOP is set to take Senate seats in North Dakota and Nebraska, and maybe to overturn Democratic toeholds in states from Montana to Virginia. There is today a GOP senator in Massachusetts. Republicans claim 29 governorships and may gain two to four more this year.

As for the presidential race, Republicans are in sight of taking back Virginia and North Carolina and are competitive in supposedly new Democratic strongholds like Colorado and New Mexico. The GOP is also making unexpected inroads in Wisconsin and Iowa. The real story of the Obama presidency is the degree to which he has pushed his party back toward its coastal and urban strongholds.

All this was vividly on display in Charlotte this week. While the party's most vulnerable members aren't in outright mutiny against Mr. Obama, more than two dozen didn't risk attending the convention. In contrast to last week's GOP celebration of reformist GOP governors, the Charlotte podium was largely dominated by activists (Sandra Fluke, Lilly Ledbetter), the liberal congressional faithful (Mrs. Pelosi, Harry Reid), and urban mayors from failing states (Los Angeles's Antonio Villaraigosa, Chicago's Rahm Emanuel).

While the GOP has feted its upcoming stars—including minority governors like New Mexico's Susana Martinez and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal—the president has done little to nurture his down-ballot partners. Where is the next generation of Democrats?

Which brings us to Mr. Castro. Mr. Obama lit up the political scene in 2004 with a lofty convention speech that told a heartfelt story, appealed to the best of America, and never once mentioned George W. Bush.

Mr. Castro, by contrast, was tasked by the Obama team with laying out the bitter Democratic themes of this election. His own eloquent story was weighed down by his job of ridiculing Mitt Romney, lauding government, and stoking class warfare. The comparisons of Mr. Castro in 2012 with Mr. Obama in 2004 are misplaced; Mr. Obama has made them impossible.

Mr. Castro must be wondering what chance he has of higher office in Texas, which today has not one statewide elected Democrat. It's a question for Democrats across wide sections of the country.

The liberals who supported Mr. Obama's expansion of the entitlement state are pinning everything on Mr. Obama's re-election, assuming it will cement their big-government gains and allow them to grind back congressional majorities in the future.

But contemplate the situation if he loses. Consider a Democratic Party that may hold neither the White House nor Congress, that has disappeared in parts of the country, and that has few future Obama-like stars. Compare that to 2008. This is the party Barack Obama un-built.

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