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Behind the president's whining to the Black Caucus, begging them to "quit grumbling," is a decline in his personal popularity among African-American voters that could portend catastrophe for his fading reelection chances.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, his favorability rating among African-Americans has dropped off a cliff, plunging from 83 percent five months ago to a mere 58 percent today -- a drop of 25 points, a bit more than a point per week!
Nothing is more crucial to the president's reelection strategy than a super-strong showing among black voters. In the election of 2008, he was able to increase African-American participation from 11 percent of the total vote in 2004 to 14 percent. He carried 98 percent of them. This swing accounted for fully half of his gain over the showing of John Kerry. Now his ability to repeat that performance is in doubt.
And the emergence of Herman Cain as a serious Republican candidate could not have come at a worse time for the embattled president. Cain's alternate narrative -- self-help, entrepreneurial skill, hard work and self-improvement -- stands in stark contrast to the victimization/class warfare argument that the president has adopted.
Over all, how's that class warfare working out for you, Mr. President? Well, here are some unpleasant numbers for you:
• Before Obama's speech to Congress and the nation -- watched by 34 million families -- his job approval averaged 44 percent. Now it averages 43 percent, according to realclearpolitics.com. He deployed his ultimate weapon -- a nationally televised speech to Congress -- and came up empty.
• The president's personal favorability has taken a big hit even as his job approval has shown no gain. The Post/ABC poll has his rating down to 47 percent, the first time in his presidency it has dropped below 50. Clearly, the spectacle of a class warrior leading the country is grating on most Americans. Usually, despite drops in his job approval, his personal ratings have stayed high. Not anymore. The most recent New York Times/CBS poll had his favorability actually lagging behind his job approval by four points -- the first time it has ever done so in their polling.
• Young people, the core of Obama's base, now hold equally favorable and unfavorable views of the president they once adored. And his favorability among self-described "liberal" Democrats has also dropped. The percentage of those who say they are strongly favorable has fallen from 69 percent in April to 52 percent now. For a president whose reelection chances hinge on his ability to turn out his base, these numbers are depressing indeed.
Obama's advisers likely think that fervent appeals to liberal views, including class warfare, are the best way to repair the gaping holes that are now appearing in his political base. But this is a conviction born of instinct and intuition, not generated by polling data. The fact is that as the president has ratcheted up his class warfare rhetoric, his personal popularity has fallen and his job approval has edged down slightly.
Obama stepped on his own jobs initiative speech a week after he delivered it by proposing a class-based tax revenue plan. He poured on the class rhetoric, dwarfing any focus on the job creating aspirations of his spending program. So the message we get is that the president proposes to solve our economic problems by taxing rich people. To some this is counterintuitive, since the top 2 percent spend 33 percent of the money in this country. To others, it seems like an irrelevancy, as the president once again indulges his agenda for social reform rather than promoting economic recovery.
With only 26 percent of Americans approving of Obama's handling of the economy (Fox News poll), the president's ratings are bound to drop further, until and unless he can post real economic gains on the scoreboard, something his rhetoric alienating the GOP House of Representatives and scaring the daylights out of the business community is unlikely to achieve.
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