Op-ed: As elections loom, US president losing support of once- sympathetic voters
October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Ynet) — After the US president licks the wounds suffered in the Congress elections campaign, he will prepare to head to the Far East. Recently, he called off his plan to visit the Golden Temple in Punjab, India, officially pleading “logistical problems.” However, according to reports (which have been denied,) the president is in fact concerned about donning the white robe customarily worn in the temple. The unofficial reason for calling off the visit is the wish to avoid another photo to be used by Obama’s rivals as proof that he is in fact Muslim.
If these reports are accurate, this story perfectly expresses the turnaround in the president’s status since November 2008. Obama entered the White House with immense confidence, delivering strategic speeches in Turkey and in Egypt where he expressed his wishes to improve ties between the US and the Muslim world. Yet Obama in November 2010 no longer possesses the self-confidence that turned him from a junior senator to the leader of the world’s greatest power. Right now, he is hiding in the bunker.
On top of the smearing on racial on religious grounds, the president is facing genuine distress in the face of the Congress elections. The beaten up president and his party members have known for months now that the battle for a Congress majority is a lost cause. The House majority, as well as the post of House speaker, will fall into the hands of the conservatives. The big question is whether the Democrats will be able to maintain their control in Senate.
Can’t count on young voter
In the last elections campaigns, it was possible to point to a political gender-based gap. While men tended to vote Republican, women tended to vote Democrat. Yet the recent polls show that the female vote is also shifting to the Right. Some 52% of women still support the Democrats, yet this marks a sharp drop in the face of the masculine zeal to topple the Left, and Obama knows it. Hence, his West Coast trip is dedicated to meetings with women and efforts to boost two female Democrats who had been serving in Senate for 18 years now.
Yet it’s not only the women who are abandoning the Democrats. Americans who are 50 years of age and above are concerned that Democratic policies will undermine their future old-age allowances. Young Americans are also making it difficult for Obama. The 30-and-below group that brought him to power two years ago is known as an elusive constituency, and it is doubtful whether young voters will be heading to the polling stations en masse in nine days.
Yet Obama’s greatest problem is the independent voters. These are the people who titled the balance in 2008 and elected Obama, who promised them change. Now, the president is paying the price for that promise, which to begin with created an exaggerated bar, turning him into a leader that is no different than his predecessors; a leader who makes promises but cannot deliver the goods.
Yitzhak Benhorin is Ynet’s Washington correspondent. Part 2 of analysis to be published Sunday night