Thursday, March 06, 2008

National Review on "Obama Fatigue"

Yuval Levin, writing at National Review Online, argues that "Obama fatigue" and Obama's weakness among blue-collar voters could provide an opening for McCain to win back "Reagan Democrats":
... It is not actually clear that Obama has sought to make his campaign such a cult of personality, but whether sought or not, this is how he has been received. The traveling revivalist cabaret has certainly helped Obama immensely, and contributed to his electoral strength, but it also carries serious risks for him. In the long run, the messianic flavor of his campaign could endanger his support from the very quarters now most receptive to the message; and even in the short run it could hurt him with blue-collar voters who have little patience for the grand production.

The frantic pace of our cultural trends means Obama is running a very serious risk of making his most ardent supporters tired of him very quickly. A nasty turn in his press coverage in just the past week offers Obama an ominous preview of how that could feel. This may not be his fault, but it is certainly his problem.

McCain Democrats
Meanwhile, one crucial Democratic constituency may be tired of the show already. The elitist drift of Obama’s campaign inevitably weakens his appeal among blue-collar voters. And in this regard, it is more than the messianic excesses on the stump, but Obama’s style and personal history that could bring him lasting trouble. Throughout the Democratic primary season, we have witnessed a significant divide between highly educated white-collar voters and less educated blue-collar voters — a pattern powerfully evident in this week’s results in Ohio. Obama’s performance with black voters has masked some of this, but if you examine the white vote in state after state, you find that Barack Obama is the Ph.D.’s candidate, and Hillary Clinton the working stiff’s candidate.

Indeed, Obama’s underperformance with blue-collar voters is a very bad sign for his general election prospects. In this primary season, he has constructed a coalition of black voters and highly educated white-collar whites. This may well constitute a majority of Democratic primary voters, but certainly not of general election voters. To win in November, Obama would have to significantly improve his performance beyond those confines.

Blue-collar Democrats, especially in the upper midwest, are the voters Republicans used to think of as Reagan Democrats. For several election cycles now they have been more or less just Democrats. But given Obama’s apparent vulnerability among them in the primaries, Republicans may find an unexpected opening this year.

John McCain is better suited than most Republicans would be to appeal to such voters, as his deeply felt patriotism and old-fashioned sense of honor would speak to them. But he will need more than to win their votes. He will need a policy agenda that begins from their concerns, and appeals to blue-collar parents. McCain has at his disposal some of the elements of such an agenda, and it is not too late for him to gather more and to build his appeal to Reagan Democrats. He will get a fuller hearing than Republicans generally do, and Obama will get a colder shoulder than most Democrats do among these voters.

(emphasis added)

Rich Lowry calls it "The Sanjaya Effect":
We saw last night that "Yes, we can" doesn't have quite the same resonance when you've just suffered two big losses. How long before some journalists start writing that Obama's oratory is boring? What Obama has to worry about is the Sanjaya effect. Young girls swooned for him when the crooner was on American Idol and he was swarmed as the hottest celebrity at the White House Correspondent's Dinner last year. Now, if anyone remembers who he was, they have to wonder, "What the hell was that all about?" Obama's a talented guy with formidable advantages in the nomination contest still, but when people are routinely fainting at your rallies, it's probably a sign that you're a craze, which is wonderful—while it lasts. At the very least, Obama's halo has slipped, and he will have to spend some time down on Earth with the rest of us mere terrestrials.

Lowry continues:
Polls show that older whites are relatively immune to Obama's charms. Was there ever a better time—if Obama is the nominee—for Republicans to turn to an old white guy?

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At 3/06/2008 10:45 AM, Blogger Tito said...

I like Rich Lowry's analysis breaking down why Obama's message is resonating with certain segments of American society. Eventually emotion runs out and the substance of the message is all that is left to hold Obama's voting bloc which frankly seems untenable in the long run.

At 3/06/2008 2:17 PM, Anonymous M.Z. Forrest said...

I think we are seeing an overlap resulting in a misread. Those without a bachelor's degree (being called working class) are going to be older workers. Intuitively this is understandable, because my grandfather's generation didn't need a bachelor's degree to succeed, but in my generation it is considered essential. I would find it striking if Hoffa and the rest of the union leadership that have endorsed Obama were that tone deaf to their members' wishes.

At 3/06/2008 2:30 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...


You may be right, but the "rank-and-file" is called the "rank-and-file" specifically to differentiate them from the union leadership.

Union leadership has been out of touch with the rank-and-file on many political matters for years, dating back at least to Ronald Reagan.

Furthermore, Hillary did extremely well in blue collar portions of Ohio outside of the urban centers. Obama did abysmally in this state given (1) the roll that he was on coming into the Ohio Primary, and (2) Hillary's poor performance in the Cleveland debate. I'd say Obama's problem with the blue collar voters goes deeper than just age.


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