With President Obama’s approval ratings on the rise, we can expect Republican rhetoric to become increasingly shrill in tone. It is difficult to imagine – they have thrown the kitchen sink at him already – but the better Obama does, the more things Republicans find to attack him for, most of them completely unrelated to reality or the facts on the ground.
It will be no easy task to unseat Obama. Polls show his popularity on the rise with Democrats and Independents (even among Republicans), the economy is improving and Republican enthusiasm waning. More and more Americans are for marriage equality, contraception (including most Catholics) and even abortion rights (a recent ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll shows that support at 57 percent) even while Republicans make those issues central to their platforms. If any movement in history was swimming against a historic tide, it is the GOP of 2012.
A new CNN/ORC International Poll released Wednesday has sobering news for Republicans: “the number of Americans who think things are going well in the country is on the rise. Six out of ten say things are going poorly in the country, but four out of ten say things are going well, up 15 points since November.” This is not the sort of news a party running on the thesis that Obama is driving America into the ground wants to hear – or can afford to hear.
Not that Republican rhetoric will ever reflect these facts – their narrative will forever be divorced from reality and not even running parallel to it. The Republican Party is very skilled at diverting attention from the facts and inventing new ones though this will be more difficult with FOX News’ move toward the center. The steady diet of misinformation that fueled Tea Party rage since 2010 is becoming more spotty (though don’t expect miracles - no, really, don’t). Let’s just say “change” at FOX News is incremental but there is hope when somebody like Bill O’Reilly sticks up for Ellen DeGeneres. I wouldn’t expect to see anyone anytime soon on that network saying in response to attacks on Obama that they are not acting in “the spirit of America” but any move toward center is welcome, however slight.
What matters more than how people are polling today is the likely state of the facts on the ground in November, and here too we see a grim, dark future for GOP hopes. Look at the state of GOP’s vaunted enthusiasm level that drove them into power in 2010:
In October, 64% of Republicans said that they were extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president, compared to only 43% of Democratic voters. GOP enthusiasm since that time has tumbled 13 points, to 51%, virtually the same as the Democrats’ level of enthusiasm.
And according to the poll, none of the GOP’s remaining candidates are likely to get the job done.
Obama holds a 51%-46% margin over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, leads both former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas by the same 52%-45% advantage, and beats former House Speaker Newt Gingrich 55%-42%.
It’s difficult to imagine what more the GOP can say about President Obama, either to slow his rise in popularity or to shore up their own. They are battling against facts and they can try to ignore these but that hope is a slender reed. Clearly, the American people are waking up to the fact that despite all the GOP’s “sky is falling” rhetoric there is still hope and that things can and will improve. The GOP has yet to create a single job, cannot handle the fact that Obama has (and is creating more), and all they seem to want to do is find solutions for problems that don’t exist, like the dangers of people eating fetuses in their food.
We can always question the veracity of polls but the numbers here are looking pretty good. The CNN/ORC International Poll puts Obama’s approval at 50 percent., the highest since June 2011. Things aren’t much better looking at Gallup; for the week of February 14, Gallup shows support for Obama at 47 percent, also the highest since June 2011. The exact numbers might be different but the trend is the same: upward.
After two years, the American people are wise to this as these poll numbers seem to indicate. It will be very difficult for the GOP to gain any traction with its propaganda at this point. It was obvious almost immediately that their sole agenda in Congress was to derail Obama and it’s just as clear that this remains their primary goal. Americans want a little more and they will vote for the party that will give them what they want. If the economy continues to improve, Republicans have little hope.
A sane political party might adapt. Even FOX News has adapted to lower ratings. But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of spare sanity floating around on the right end of the American political landscape. Meanwhile, Republican candidates continue to compare largely meaningless poll numbers because it is becoming apparent that while they might gain on one another, none of them seem capable of even keeping up with Obama, let alone gaining on him or winning in November.
And if Santorum can’t do better than his homophobic marriage meme and Gingrich can’t let go of his imagined reverse-inquisition of the Catholic Church and Romney can’t somehow convince voters lies are truth and Paul can’t stop the flow of information out of his racist past, nothing for the once Grand Old Party is going to change for the better. The rise of Obama is a win for America, and voters seem to be realizing this after 2010’s flirtation with the dark side.