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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Obama’s Liberal Base Problem Exaggerated?

Adam Serwer makes the case that, President Obama’s “liberal base” problems are “way overstated.” In a Plum Line post Servwer explains:

…Despite the loud criticism of Obama from prominent lefties, liberal and Democratic rank and file support for Obama remains solid. The one who really has the most to fear from an angry base is House Speaker John Boehner….The Post reports:
“Key liberal groups, which helped elect Obama in 2008, are raising concerns that he has given up political ground to Republicans, allowing the message of reducing government to trump that of creating jobs and lowering the unemployment rate.
Seizing on Friday’s deal, which would cut $38.5 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget, activists on Tuesday threatened to sit out the 2012 presidential campaign if Obama goes too far with further cuts.”

Serwer argues that Obama may have gotten a better budget deal than expected and is holding his own with progressives in recent polls:

…Gallup’s weekly demographics poll shows Obama’s approval rating among liberals and Democrats has been relatively stable over the past month. A recent CNN poll also showed that Democrats and independents broadly approved of the budget compromise even before the details were really out, which makes sense since unlike Republicans who seemed eager for a shutdown, Democrats tend to like compromise.
Indeed, it’s precisely because Obama’s standing among liberals and Democrats is so strong that liberal activists and elites have to make so much noise to hold his feet to the fire. Conservative elites, through an incredibly influential media ecosystem that includes Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and others, have much more influence over the opinions of the conservative base than liberal elites do over theirs.
Boehner is the person who really has to worry about pleasing his base. That same CNN poll, while giving him broad approval ratings among Republicans, still showed that a bare majority of GOPers believe he has given up too much ground, and his approval ratings among conservatives and Republicans are far lower than Obama’s standing among liberals and Democrats.

Serwer concludes that President Obama is leveraging his leeway to compromise, which makes it “all the more important for liberal groups to pressure him to prevent him from giving too much ground.

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