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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

No Obama “Tilt to the Left”

It’s rapidly become part of the CW that the president, alarmed by deteriorating support from the Democratic “base,” began a “tilt to the left” in his September 8 “jobs speech.” According to this assumption, he will presumably “tilt back to the center” at some point in order to wage an effective general election campaign.
If, however, Obama has been engaged in some “tilt to the left,” it sure hasn’t been noticed by the voting public.
According to the latest big national poll, from CNN, the president’s “renominate” number among self-identified Democrats is at 72%. A month ago, before the “jobs speech” and its “tilt to the left,” it was at–72%.
Gallup’s weekly tracking poll has the president’s job approval rating staying pretty steady in the low 40s over the last month. During the last full week before the “jobs speech,” it was at 81% among self-identified “liberal Democrats.” This last week the same group gave him a 76% approval rating. Among liberals generally, his approval rating dropped from 71% to 67%. During the same period, his job approval rating among self-identified conservatives went up four points; among conservative Democrats it was up three points.
Now none of these shifts was large enough to signify a lot, but they sure aren’t consistent with pundit claims that Obama conspicuously changed his tune in a “left” direction. Moreover, his standing in the Democratic “base” before the jobs speech was hardly alarming enough to justify a major shift in the first place.
All this reinforces my original feeling that what the president is actually up to strategically is simply a pivot towards his general election strategy of creating contrasts between his “reasonable” and jobs-focused policies and the ideological bender that the GOP has been indulging for much of the last three years. Arguably he is undertaking the pivot too late, and/or with insufficient force, but it does not appear he is just making a leftward feint before settling back in to many months of happy-talk bipartisanship. Barring some unlikely major change of strategy by Republicans, and with the exception of possible emergencies, I suspect we’ll keep hearing more of the rhetoric of “contrast” from the White House as we move towards the general election.

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