Why Obama didn’t turn it around last night, and ‘change’ still matters


8:09 am - October 17th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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The consensus is that President Obama narrowly won the second debate last night against Mitt Romney. That will stem some of the heavy loss in support he’s had over the past week after the first debate.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent makes a good case for why Obama turned it around, but I want to offer the case for why he didn’t.

Obama has problems with a key constituency of undecided voters: these are people who were really hopeful that Obama’s election would turn things around in the economy. They wanted change and they were hoping Obama would create lots of jobs.

But the US slump has been much more protracted than anyone expected. There are swathes of voters in swing states likes Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin that are depressed that the economy still isn’t working for them (Virginia and Ohio aren’t doing so bad in comparison).

What they don’t want to hear from Obama is that he will carry on the last four years of policies because those policies haven’t worked for them. These people don’t really trust Mitt Romney and know that he’s only interested in helping rich people.

But they want some form of change because the status quo isn’t working for them. So many of them are willing to give Romney a chance.

Last night President Obama did a much better of undermining and putting question marks over Mitt Romney’s policies.

But what he didn’t do is make a succinct, positive case for why he remains the candidate of change who will turn things around for people who are still unemployed and/or struggling. They want change not the status quo, and Obama’s narrative was mostly: give me four more years to complete the job.

There are still too many people around Obama who want red-meat for core voters and wanted him to focus on ‘the 47%’ comments. I saw lefties in the UK (Mehdi Hasan and Jonathan Freedland) and in the US constantly baying for this. But they miss the point – those aren’t the people Obama needs in his camp any more.

I think Obama made a good case last night but not a good enough case for the narrow sliver of undecided voters whose fate Obama’s re-election depends on. I suspect the polls will very narrowly move back in Obama’s favour but this still remains a very tight election.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


President Obama is fighting against a Republican congress (with a 7% approval rating) who waste more time with symbolic votes against his Healthcare Policy & partisan investigations to make him look bad as well as doing everything they can to make him a one term president by blocking any chance of recovery. Low info racists won’t vote for President Obama anyway (the simple fact that he is POTUS makes their heads explode) & with Rmoney doubling down on his anti women/anti Hispanic agenda it won’t be as close as you think.

When did people stop “doubling-up”, and start “doubling-down”?

Obama’s chances are certainly being helped by his supporters running about after each debate screaming that he’s doomed.

Medhi sees the whole US election through narrow UK eyes. There is a very small swing group. They want solid answers to getting us out of this slump. BIG turnoffs are a) class war like Mehdi loves and b) blaming Bush (they know he was rubbish, but think it is a cop-out four years on). Somehow Medhi can’t see this. The working middle classes (note Medhi, very different from UK middle class) are very much pro individual responsibility, etc. Medhi’s union loving, socialists left wing, etc. just do not work here. Of course, the irony is many many many of them are religious nuts. And are “left” by US standards AND pro life. Sound familiar?

Whilst who gets elected will have a profound effect on the world (G.W.Bush), do we really have to trouble ourselves with this political tittle tattle.
Americans get to make the decision (sometimes with a little political expediency) and whether they make the right or wrong decision will impact on them and the rest of us.
Whoever is in office, voters on both sides of the Atlantic need to ask the question; who exactly is being best served by the parasitic scum in Washington/Westminster, because it’s not the ordinary working people, that’s for sure.

6. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 Barrie J

“Whoever is in office, voters on both sides of the Atlantic need to ask the question; who exactly is being best served by the parasitic scum in Washington/Westminster, because it’s not the ordinary working people, that’s for sure.”

If that’s the case, then surely the most relevant question would be “hang on, why do we keep voting for ‘parastic scum’?”

@6 Because otherwise the wrong parasitic scum might get in.

8. Chaise Guevara

@ Cylux

A fairly good answer, but we could just decide that parasitic-scumness is a deal-breaker for our votes, no?

The point I’m (rather facetiously) making is that banging on about how all politicians are TEH EVULZ is inaccurate, over-simplistic, self-indulgent, and a symptom of looking to blame other people for our own (collective) mistakes.

If we don’t want bastards in power, we simply need to stop voting for them.

Nate Silver has a good track record at predicting this kind of thing. He still has Obama ahead (http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/author/nate-silver/). Robert Reich argues that a lot of voters are put off by Republican wingnuttery who might otherwise give Romney a chance.

I still think Obama has it, unless something really dramatic happens.

11. Albert Spangler

@8

I agree with your sentiment, but there are powerful forces to dissuade people from actually trying to vote in an alternative. Look at the whole ‘spoiler effect’ of people voting for a minority candidate which some used to justify Bush getting in, along with the monopolisation of people feeling they can make a difference within the current party system rather than making none in another party.

It’s an issue I am still wrestling with myself, to support a status quo party who might have a chance ameliorate some of the problems we face or stick with a side who I genuinely believe has good policies and who I believe will never get in power.

Still, I think people use it as an excuse for a kind of lazy general disengagement with politics, “what’s the point, I don’t individually make any difference” despite the fact that’s it’s groups of individuals who won us our rights and standards today. The more apathetic we are, the easier the bastards win.

It may be unfair to point ask but has anyone noticed what has happened to President Obama’s poll numbers since Sunny flew to the US to help out?

While Sunny may be right in terms of Obama’s performance having a marginal effect on undecided voters, I think this did revitalize many activists.
This matters because it will be those activists who get involved locally to get out the vote/work against voter suppression, donate money to campaigns, etc.

I found a definite change in atmosphere after watching the debates with a group of Democrats: there was considerable demoralisation and now there seems to be more determination and purposefulness.

Aside from that, Obama offered a crisper and clearer set of contrasts. I think he is wise to row back a bit on the specific commitments and promises of change he makes for the future: the “party of no” has blocked so much in the past two years and will continue to do so that change is exceptionally difficult.

H

14. So Much for Subtlety

1. Ukobserver

President Obama is fighting against a Republican congress (with a 7% approval rating) who waste more time with symbolic votes against his Healthcare Policy & partisan investigations to make him look bad as well as doing everything they can to make him a one term president by blocking any chance of recovery.

Except Obama had a Democratic majority for two years. What did he do with that except run up incredibly wasteful deficits? The Republicans did not make a symbolic vote against his healthcare policy. Remember that Obama could not even get all Democrats to vote for it. Obama chose to waste his political capital on an expensive and useless piece of partisan hackery and has paid the price. What partisan investigations? You mean asking Obama why his administration was giving guns illegally to Mexican drug gangs so they could shoot INS agents?

Low info racists won’t vote for President Obama anyway (the simple fact that he is POTUS makes their heads explode)

And yet they did. Obama did get elected.

& with Rmoney doubling down on his anti women/anti Hispanic agenda it won’t be as close as you think.

Romney is going to romp home. As he should. A President this incompetent does not deserve a second chance. What anti-woman, anti-Hispanic agenda? Oh wait, this is just the liberal equivalent of not thinking. Much better to throw wild accusations of racism about the place than think why Obama is losing.

3. Cylux

Obama’s chances are certainly being helped by his supporters running about after each debate screaming that he’s doomed.

Would it matter? This time his supporters in the media are trying to call it for Obama, but actually opinion polls seem to suggest that the voters thought Romney won. We shall see. I don’t think people listen to the leftist MSM as much as they would like to think they do.

5. Barrie J

Whoever is in office, voters on both sides of the Atlantic need to ask the question; who exactly is being best served by the parasitic scum in Washington/Westminster, because it’s not the ordinary working people, that’s for sure.

One thing I like about American conservatives is that they do not sit at home and whine. At least they don’t only sit at home and whine. They have been energised this election cycle. They go out and volunteer. They fund raise. They hand out stuff. They follow the actual campaign.

Take a leaf out of their book Barry. This is what actual democracy is about. You do not like the scum bags that we elect, and who does?, make a difference. Stand for election. Volunteer for Respect or whoever it is that presses your buttons. Don’t sit around b!tching to us. Do something. Democracy, use it or lose it.

He didn’t make a succinct, positive case for why he remains the candidate of change who will turn things around for people who are still unemployed and/or struggling because he won’t. He is in the same pockets Romney is in. The whole thing is a sham. I don’t understand why blacks who voted for him haven’t risen up, but there again maybe they have and it just isn’t being covered on the news.

@Dave Bones
If you believe the totes not racist tea-party blogosphere then apparently blacks are only planning to riot should Obama lose.
The phrase “will blacks riots if Obama loses” brings up more than a few relevant sites on google.

haha cheers for link, I didn’t look at it that way round. Very interesting. Would be nice to see people get a clear vision of what they voted for, but we got the same problem over here and I can’t blame no one else but me eh.

18. Richard Carey

@ Cylux,

“If you believe the totes not racist tea-party blogosphere then apparently blacks are only planning to riot should Obama lose.”

Don’t you mean; ‘if you believe the idiots on Twitter who are declaring their intention to riot and/or assassinate Romney, if Obama loses’?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. David Skelton

    “@libcon: Why Obama didn't turn it around last night, and 'change' still matters http://t.co/he9eIYxg” Good piece by @sunnyhundal

  2. David Skelton

    “@libcon: Why Obama didn't turn it around last night, and 'change' still matters http://t.co/he9eIYxg” Good piece by @sunny_hundal

  3. Jason Brickley

    Why Obama didn’t turn it around last night, and ‘change’ still matters http://t.co/zxggtJcn

  4. sunny hundal

    Why Obama didn’t turn it around in last night's debate (my verdict), and ‘change’ still matters http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  5. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why Obama didn’t turn it around last night, and ‘change’ still matters http://t.co/oPrWh5xc

  6. hannah snow

    But Sunny Hundal says it's not enough, Obama has to do more: http://t.co/5jz4lGVP

  7. sunny hundal

    “@libcon: Why Obama didn't turn it around last night, and 'change' still matters http://t.co/he9eIYxg” Good piece by @sunny_hundal

  8. John Jameson

    Why Obama didn’t turn it around in last night's debate (my verdict), and ‘change’ still matters http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  9. Al Beattie

    Why Obama didn’t turn it around in last night's debate (my verdict), and ‘change’ still matters http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  10. Richard Darlington

    Why Obama didn’t turn it around in last night's debate (my verdict), and ‘change’ still matters http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  11. Owen Blacker

    RT @libcon Why Obama didn't turn it around last night, and 'change' still matters http://t.co/xNuf5mzz

  12. sunny hundal

    @theplumlineGS My response to your piece Greg – why Obama didn't turn it around last night http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  13. Who won the presidential debate? No one knows, but hey, here are a few random numbers to keep you occupied – Telegraph Blogs

    [...] Stanley, that Obama "won on points" but that he may suffer under fact-checking. "It wasn't enough," fretted Liberal Conspiracy's Sunny Hundal. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent thinks Obama "turned it [...]

  14. Dan Hodges

    The Obama campaign must be really chuffed Sunny Hundal has flown all that way to publicly dis their candidate. http://t.co/g1NL4Fbm

  15. Harry Cole

    The Obama campaign must be really chuffed Sunny Hundal has flown all that way to publicly dis their candidate. http://t.co/g1NL4Fbm

  16. BBC Propaganda

    The Obama campaign must be really chuffed Sunny Hundal has flown all that way to publicly dis their candidate. http://t.co/g1NL4Fbm

  17. David Lewy

    The Obama campaign must be really chuffed Sunny Hundal has flown all that way to publicly dis their candidate. http://t.co/g1NL4Fbm

  18. sunny hundal

    My take on the Obama / Romney debate last night: Why Obama didn’t turn it around http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  19. Dr Nadine Muller

    My take on the Obama / Romney debate last night: Why Obama didn’t turn it around http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  20. Tom Stannard

    My take on the Obama / Romney debate last night: Why Obama didn’t turn it around http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  21. Hannah Curtis

    My take on the Obama / Romney debate last night: Why Obama didn’t turn it around http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  22. Ben Mitchell

    Some very valid pts from @sunny_hundal about why Obama still needs to convince the undecideds he'll turn things around: http://t.co/HV8wHjzt

  23. Simon Jones

    My take on the Obama / Romney debate last night: Why Obama didn’t turn it around http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  24. BevR

    Why Obama didn’t turn it around last night, and ‘change’ still matters | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/KMeHzwiq via @libcon

  25. BevR

    Why Obama didn’t turn it around last night, and ‘change’ still matters | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/P7gaiZi2

  26. MOBASHAR AHMED

    My take on the Obama / Romney debate last night: Why Obama didn’t turn it around http://t.co/pxNMA0zg

  27. sunny hundal

    Some very valid pts from @sunny_hundal about why Obama still needs to convince the undecideds he'll turn things around: http://t.co/HV8wHjzt

  28. Montoto

    Some very valid pts from @sunny_hundal about why Obama still needs to convince the undecideds he'll turn things around: http://t.co/HV8wHjzt

  29. David Gillon

    Some very valid pts from @sunny_hundal about why Obama still needs to convince the undecideds he'll turn things around: http://t.co/HV8wHjzt

  30. Jim Early

    Yep,@sunny_hundal's post debate blog post today proves why Libs are much better at self-flagellation than Conservs. http://t.co/FQzTn3rn

  31. Louise Norton

    Some very valid pts from @sunny_hundal about why Obama still needs to convince the undecideds he'll turn things around: http://t.co/HV8wHjzt

  32. sunny hundal

    @LouiseMensch I did! He won the debate but didn't win over undecideds properly. My blog post: http://t.co/DpUN7inJ





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