FiveThirtyEight has an interesting post about Barack Obama's approval ratings - particularly interesting for me, living here in Nebraska.
Nebraska is a very red state, and Obama received less than 42% of the vote here in 2008. (But note that he did win one of our three electoral college votes. Since then, Republicans have been working hard to change us into a "winner take all" state.)
Now, however, according to a Gallup poll, Obama's approval rating in Nebraska is almost 45% - slightly more than 3% higher than his percentage of the vote two years ago.
And keep in mind that 2008 was an election where, after the disastrous Bush years, Republicans were discouraged and Democrats enthusiastic - which definitely helped Obama in the presidential vote, even in a state like Nebraska.
Of course, Obama isn't going to win Nebraska in 2012. We're a very Republican state. But I still think this is interesting. According to that poll, Obama's approval rating has increased in Nebraska more than in any other state except Mississippi.
On the one hand, I'd expect this, since fearful white voters should become more comfortable with a black president once they get used to him. And it certainly should be obvious by now that Obama isn't the leftist his opponents tried to make him out to be. Indeed, he's very much a moderate.
But on the other hand, as the evidence has consistently demonstrated his middle-of-the-road approach, the right-wing has just become more and more hysterical. Among Republicans, those laughably ridiculous beliefs that Obama is a Muslim and that he wasn't born in America have actually increased.
So how can we explain this? Well, it might be that, as the GOP has become more and more extreme, more... sane conservatives have decided to become Independents. They're still likely to vote Republican in the general election, no doubt, but they may not be counted as Republicans in polls.
That's one possibility. But I really don't know. It's interesting, though, don't you think?
PS. One big problem with these polls is that they don't indicate why people don't approve of a political figure. I know that a lot of Democrats are unhappy with Obama because he's been too conservative for them. Ironically, they probably bought into Republican claims about how liberal Obama was, which just wasn't - and isn't - the truth.
For myself, I'm unhappy with Obama primarily for political reasons. He's done a lot of good things, but all too often, he's adopted Republican rhetoric (even when it's demonstrably wrong). And he's bent over backward to "compromise" - often unilaterally, which is why I use the quotes - with the GOP, while reserving his harshest criticisms for his own supporters!
For the past two years, Obama has had the best bully pulpit in the world, but he hasn't used it to communicate our side of things. I'm certainly not against compromise, but to do that effectively - rather than just surrendering everything to your opponents - you have to start with a strong argument for your own position. You need to compromise from a position of strength, not weakness.
For a guy who seemed to be such a skilled politician in 2008, someone who raised the enthusiasm level in the Democratic Party to such heights, he's proved to be a terrible politician once in office. He's done many good things as president, but while doing them, he's left Democrats discouraged and disheartened.
In a policy sense, Barack Obama has been fine - only mildly disappointing, at most. But in a political sense, he's been a disaster. Only two years after the worst presidential administration in U.S. history, which ended in the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression - and with pundits questioning whether the GOP could even survive as a major political party in America - Republicans are riding high again.
And in those same two years, with the stock market booming, after a Democratic president skillfully halted an economic collapse that looked to have no bottom when he took office, Democrats have gone from wild enthusiasm to gloom and despair. It's just incredible, isn't it? If I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't have believed it.
Yes, unemployment is still sky-high. But Obama's leadership kept us from another Great Depression. When he took office, we were seriously worried about the complete collapse of the U.S. economy. After that kind of success, he should be the most popular president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. But this great candidate turned into a terrible politician once in office.
At any rate, when you look at Barack Obama's approval ratings, you've got to realize that some of that disapproval comes from the left, not the right. I don't know how much of it,... but if he were a better politician, a better communicator, his ratings wouldn't have dropped at all.
After all, by any objective measure, he took office in one of the worst situations in history for a new president (and one of the most dangerous situations for America). Now, just two years later, we're in far better shape than we were then. I wouldn't have believed, back in 2008, that candidate Barack Obama wouldn't be able to take a winning position like that and capitalize on it.
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