Why did Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour praise President Obama’s political skills on “Meet the Press” yesterday?
In a discussion about Obama’s reluctance to engage in the Wisconsin labor battle, Barbour said: “The president is one of the greatest politicians in the history of the United States.”
Even faint praise for the president seems odd from any Republican pondering a run for the Oval Office. Is this a sign that Barbour won’t run? Or is it an early attempt to build an excuse for the defeat Republicans fear they will face in 2012?
Just four months after posting historic election gains, Republicans are experiencing a reality check about 2012: President Barack Obama is going to be a lot tougher to defeat than he looked late last year.
Having gone from despondency in 2008 to euphoria last November, a more sober GOP is wincing in the light of day as they consider just how difficult unseating an incumbent president with a massive warchest is going to be, even with a still-dismal economy. . .
. .There is an unmistakable sense among Republicans that the breezy predictions of Obama turning out to be the next Jimmy Carter were premature.
Obama does have good political skills. He wouldn’t have been elected as the nation’s first black president if he didn’t. But if the president wins re-election during a year in which unemployment is expected to remain high, he’ll have a weak GOP presidential field — held hostage to its fanatics — to thank.
That’s what I said on the Chris Matthews show a week ago:
In the 1970s, the Democratic Party was widely believed to be held hostage to its fringe elements: black nationalists demanding reparations, peaceniks who saw no enemies that America didn’t create, feminists burning their bras and apologists for criminals. As a result, Democrats won the White House just once from 1968 until 1992. It took them more than a decade to shed their reputation for lunacy — deserved or not.
The Republicans are wandering in a similar wilderness, stalked by their lunatic fringe: birthers, nativists, Muslim-haters, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck fetishists. Let’s take a look at just one issue: immigration reform. No Republican can hope to win the GOP nomination unless he takes a no-holds-barred, foot-on-their-throats attitude toward illegal immigrants. Even Republicans who had previously supported the DREAM Act, which would allow a path to citizenship for fewer than a million law-abiding young adults, refused to vote for it in December.
As a result, the GOP has precious little support among Latino voters. From Politico:
“The electorate will look much different in 2012 than it did in 2010,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who was a political operative for decades before coming to Congress. “It’s going to be younger, browner, and more to the left.”
The problem for Republicans is most acute among Hispanics, a pivotal bloc of the electorate in must-have Florida and the West.
“Republicans cannot afford to lose the Latino vote by 30%+ as they did in 2008,” read the slide headline on a 2012 polling presentation sent out last week by the GOP survey research firm Public Opinion Strategies.
Whit Ayres, a longtime GOP pollster with his own firm, said that the most discouraging piece of data for the party ahead of 2012 is the GOP’s difficulty with Hispanic voters.
“If we lose the fastest-growing, largest minority group like we lost them in 2008, it’s going to be pretty tough in places like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona,” observed Ayres.
It’s going to take the Republican Party a while to free itself from the clutches of its crazies and — barring a crisis that renders Obama unelectable — find its way back to the Oval Office.