Dick Morris explains why Obama is turning left with all his class warfare rhetoric in the last few weeks.
Two months ago, Washington was abuzz with speculation that Obama was going to follow Bill Clinton's reelection strategy and move to the center, forsaking the liberal agenda that cost him control of the House in 2010. Now it is evident that he has decided to come down hard left and wage his reelection fight from his liberal bunker, firing shots at Republican cuts in Medicare, pushing tax increases on the rich, and attributing the gas-price increase to speculators.This is a key insight. Obama is not able to portray himself as a centrist without alienating his leftist base. The mood of the country is against his high-tax, high-spending agenda yet he cannot abandon it without cutting into his own base. He needs to tack right but there isn't room.
Very possibly the decision to tack to the left was not entirely voluntary. With the Republicans constantly confronting him with budget cuts and spending reductions, Obama cannot portray himself as a centrist. Every day, he is on the defensive against proposals for Republican attempts to rein in federal outlays. Against a backdrop of repeated confrontation, he cannot move to the middle. Indeed, there is no middle. His budget compromises with Boehner are not middle ground, they are partial surrenders, grudging acceptances of budget cuts he would never otherwise allow.
The key is in the last line "to give him any chance at all." After the November mid-term elections there was a lot of talk of him "pulling a Clinton" and tacking to the center and many people tried hard to interpret every possibly centrist act as evidence for such a strategy. But the February budget proved that he only agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts under extreme pressure - much of it from within his own party - and not out of centrist convictions. His failure to come up with an alternative to the Ryan plan and his decision to resort to shameless demagoguery instead shows that he isn't really moving far enough to the center to have a real shot at re-election. America is a center-right country and Obama has scared the moderate middle of America with his economic irresponsibility. That, coupled with high unemployment and no economic growth is simply too high a mountain to climb.
The problem with a leftist strategy is that the vote share a Democrat can attract with it has a very low ceiling - in the low 40s. Economic populism just doesn't play that well outside of the Democratic left.
The key to this electoral model is, of course, turnout. Obama made it work in 2008 by adding the votes of new, younger voters, increasing the African-American and Latino turnout and playing on the unique economic panic of the times. But, absent a big increase in liberal turnout, the appeal of class warfare and populist rhetoric is sharply limited.Will Obama be able to replicate his turnout model of 2008 in 2012? With high unemployment, inflation and gas prices, it's very unlikely. His problem, more probably, will be to animate his base and breathe it back to sufficient life to give him any chance at all.
The Democrats are grasping at straws by pointing to the "weak" GOP field of presidential candidates. They are living in "La La Land" when they imagine that the Republican will nominate Donald Trump or Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman to run against Obama. They will play a role, but it won't be as the nominee.
I honest think there are 4-6 different Republican candidates who could easily beat Obama - Pawlenty, Huckabee, Daniels, and Romney for sure and likely Santorum and Gingrich as well - and even the Republicans won't be stupid enough not to nominate one of them. But if Ryan or Christie were to run they would be superior candidates to any of the above and it could easily turn into a rout. If say Romney or Daniels wins, Marco Rubio would be a vice-presidential candidate who could rally the base. If Pawlenty, Gingrich, Santorum or Huckabee wins, Paul Ryan would be a superb choice for vice-president.
Personally, I would like to see a Pawlenty-Rubio ticket or a Santorum-Ryan ticket. But that is not the point. The point is that the chances of the Republican Party nominating an unelectable candidate is almost nil.
Obama is currently polling under 50% against a generic Republican. He is extremely vulnerable. If he holds his base he can keep it close long enough to raise money and lose without being embarrassed while hoping for a miracle. If he loses his base he risks becoming the biggest loser in American history. That is why he is turning left instead of right and that is why he cannot win.