Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Losing the 60th Seat

Imagine if the ghost of Election Future told Teddy the day after the '08 election that he would die soon and that the fate of health care reform depended on the results of the special election to replace him. I'm quite sure the lion of the Senate would've slammed down a scotch in celebration (or equivalent)!

It is absolutely remarkable how the Democrats have revived a completely disorganized, dysfunctional political party. It really comes down to the "economy stupid". Three major mistakes were made by the Obama administration and the leadership of the Democratic Party:

1. pushing health care ahead of economic reform, including financial regulation;
2. trusting that Keynesian economics work; and
3. realizing, because of the branding efforts by the Obama Presidential campaign, voters projected their own interpretations of him, and often times with radical different results.

Obama and his campaign made a very conscious effort to prevent the brand of Obama from becoming labeled by traditional political definitions. Although he had a perfect liberal rating as a U.S. Senator and was known for advocating rather liberal beliefs such as expanding the rights of Americans to health care and other social justice issues, he avoided being categorized as a traditional liberal through advocating for a "realist" foreign policy, a more efficient, results oriented approach to government services, charter schools and praising Ronald Reagan.

While this was a brilliant campaign strategy that was incredibly effective, it was extremely vulnerable once public policy was made and the vision of brand Obama was clarified by American voters. This vulnerability was further compounded by, frankly, the arrogance of the Obama administration. We saw this after Iowa, when team Obama was overly confident about New Hampshire. This overconfidence led to numerous mistakes and nearly cost him the nomination.

I would speculate team Obama became enamored of their poll numbers early on and sought to strengthen the depth of positive sentiments towards Obama by continually keeping Obama front and center of the media cycle. What ensued was overexposure. Press conference after press conference, announcement after announcement... it was soon all Obama all the time... even more that it would already naturally be as the first minority President that was the hope of saving the country from the previous administrations seemingly disastrous policies.

Furthermore, this overexposure was compounded by an apparent supreme confidence that his policies would turn around the economy and unemployment rate. This is where mistake #2 enters.

In many ways Obama is extremely fortunate to even be where he is at right now. Imagine if that jihad advocating cat from Nigeria had actually succeeded in blowing up that plane during the holidays. Obama's rating would be in the low 30's and next November would be a complete bloodbath at the polls.

At the end of the day I'm still quiet stunned how Obama managed to destroy so much of the good will he accumulated with the American people.