Whither President Obama's Coattails?

Back in November I asked if Barack Obama would be a Democratic version of Dwight D. Eisenhower: A popular President whose popularity didn't rub off on his party and who, as a result, was not able to get as much done as he might otherwise have.

The results after President Obama's first year in office are still inconclusive -- but they're not promising. On election day 2009, Democrats lost races in New York City, New Jersey and Virginia despite Barack Obama's approval ratings of 77 percent, 57 percent, and 48 percent, respectively. Post-election polling out of the Massachusetts race, where the Democratic nominee Martha Coakley lost despite Barack Obama's impressive 61 percent approval rating, further suggest his coattails may not be as long as once thought.

Obama also remains highly popular in Massachusetts. More than six in 10 of those who voted approve of his job performance, with 92 percent of Coakley voters expressing satisfaction, along with 33 percent of Brown's. More than half of Brown's backers say Obama was not a factor in their vote.

These numbers aren't all bad news, of course. Looked at from another angle, the message should be clear to Scott Brown that he can ill afford to alienate supporters of the President in Massachusetts, who make up fully one out of every three of his voters on Tuesday. As such, there will be great pressure on him to be open (or at least appear to be open) to legislative compromise (even as, at the same time, his extreme conservative base pressures him in the other direction).

That said, looking at the more macro than the micro implications of these numbers, it is becoming increasingly evident that President Obama's cachet with voters, to the extent that it remains at present, is not rubbing off on his fellow Democrats. The reportedly expanded role for David Plouffe, the architect of Barack Obama's campaign for the White House, could potentially change this dynamic going forward -- but it is clear that if President Obama wishes for the Congress to remain in the hands of his Democratic Party, the current trajectory isn't likely to keep it that way indefinitely.

Tags: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, MA-Sen, coattails (all tags)



Obama popularity

Obama rode in on a huge wave of dissatisfaction with Bush and the Republicans.  People vote the pocketbook and 2008 was a bad economy.  If we go into 2010 with unemployment over 10% it will be bad news for incumbents.

The Obama administration does not place enough importance on job creation.  It's the economy stupid.  If unemployment were under 7 percent and dropping, none of the other BS would be getting traction.

by bakho 2010-01-23 08:14PM | 1 recs
The fight hasn't even begun yet.

For the 2010 race, there is pre-jobs push polling and post-jobs push polling.  Once Obama unveils his economic agenda, with jobs as his centerpiece, at the State of the Union address next Wednesday, the numbers will begin to shift.  By July, after the Republicans have been trying to obstruct jobs creation for several months, and after voters have been reminded of who caused the mess we're in, those numbers will shift dramatically.

These new numbers will come as a pleasant surprise to many of us who have not yet understood the profound historic effect of the 2008 recession, it's Republican causes, and it's rock-solid proof of a failed Conservative economic ideology that will not experience any manner of resurrection. 

Anyone who thinks voters will continue to place what is left of their money in the hands of Republicans who are unable to change course regardless of the consequences does not appreciate just how many Americans lost vast amounts of wealth last fall.




by Georgeo57 2010-01-23 08:35PM | 0 recs
Jimmy Obama

Right now Obama isn't very popular right now, at 47-47 in the Gallup tracker.  His ranting against the banks sounds so much Jimmy Carter; they don't have any credibility after the bailouts.  He's never really campainged for any of his agenda, including health care and the stimulus (which could have been so much more effective).  He's passive and not feared; he's seen as out of touch.

The messaging has been awful; Obama has taken ownership of the economy so quickly is simply he's failed to remind voters of the huge mess he inherited almost from the beginning.

I don't see a viable primary opponent in 2012, anyone out there?  So it's going to be Romney or Thune in 2012.


I don't see Obama getiing reelected in 2012.


by esconded 2010-01-23 09:11PM | 0 recs
Is that what you want?

Your irrational and baseless pessimism is so tiresome.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-23 11:52PM | 1 recs
RE: Is that what you want?

Keep inmind that wehn poeple start comparing a President to past political failures (Hoover, Carter), sometimes those Presidents come back with flying colors.

by spirowasright 2010-01-24 02:06AM | 0 recs
Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

We know from people in MA that Coakley basically had no campaign; and we know that Brown never missed an opportunity.  Coakley (a law and order Democrat) is historically to the right of her party, while Brown (a pro-choice Republican) is historically to the left of his, making it a duel of moderates (a spectacle no one really enjoys).  Well coiffed Republicans have always been able to eke out narrow victories in statewide races in MA against opponents who actually campaign.  In this case, the narrowness of Brown's victory can't be attributed to the hard work of his opponent--the only factor I can see that would prevent him from having taken upwards of 65% of the vote is Obama's coattails.

It takes 50% to win.  I continue to have high expectations of the man, but not even Obama can score a coattail effect of 50%.  Obama carried Coakley more than any candidate in a statewide race anywhere could expect.  She has no one but herself to blame for the fact that it wasn't enough.

by Endymion 2010-01-23 09:12PM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

The narrowness of Brown's victory? It was a blow-out: 53 to 47, close to Obama's number nationally. Even Romney in the Governorship didn't get much over 50%.

by vecky 2010-01-23 10:04PM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

Ahh, you're correct, the margin was not "close" in the standard American electoral use of the word.  I was referring to relative narrowness--the result of the race was much closer than I would expect given the essential difference between this race and Romney/O'Brien(that being that Romney had an opponent and Brown basically didn't).

by Endymion 2010-01-24 12:35AM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

I was about to say that. Form the sound of things, Obama's coattails have had to haul a lot of dead weight (the Chicago  Olympics included).

by spirowasright 2010-01-24 12:06AM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

Oh, there's one other thing


Maybe Obama should resign, Biden should appoint Hillary as V.P. and after she's confirmed, then resign. Hillary.in turn can make Kucinich the Veep.


That way, Jerome will be very happy, along with the rest of the Blog Birchers.

Knowing Webbaggers, a Hilary-Super Dennis team will be loved by the left--for about a week and a half.

by spirowasright 2010-01-24 12:11AM | 2 recs
The dead weight point

That is very good.

I'm trying to think of a decent opportunity Obama has had on his coattails.

Coakley was the worst candidate that I have suffered through. Chicago was an uphill battle to say the least. I don't know about Corzine, whether he had a chance, but I heard Deeds was pretty poor in a red state as well.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-24 02:06AM | 0 recs
RE: The dead weight point

I live in Va, and campaigned for Obama in 08. Creight Deeds was a realative conservative from the Western part of the state , away from the population centers. He was a Democrat in the regular sense of the word, on all the key issues, but he didn't have the the external trappings of a strong,popular Va , Obama Democrat.No real inroads in the Black communities, no connnection to the 30  and under crowd, not a vibrant speaker (stuttering problem), he didn't really promote his own platform as much as he tried to shove a paper that his opponent wrote over 20 years ago (Which didn't get much traction) down everyone's throats.
All in all, a rather unspectacular candidate to run aganist a moderate Republican from Norhtern Va.

I voted to sit on my hands, and I don't regret it.

by xodus1914 2010-01-25 01:26PM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

Ah, you think Obama came out shiny from MA?  Brown got more votes in a special election than either McCain in the '08 or Romney in the '02 GE's, the latter while winning.

I thought that with a higher turnout Brown would benefit, but this surpassed my thinking of the possible.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-24 08:16AM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

'10Brown did outperform '02Romney, but it's important to note that Coakley also  outperformed Romney's '02 opponent O'Brien.  There's no way she earned that performance, it came from Obama.

by Endymion 2010-01-24 12:30PM | 0 recs
Numbers on that assertion

Just to add,

O'Brien '02: 985,981 votes 45%

Coakley '10: 1,058,682 votes 47%

by Endymion 2010-01-24 12:40PM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

Every poll result that I followed had the lead of Brown widen the last week of the campaign. You can look back on my projections of the race, as I posted an update with them from a bit more than a week out. There was no Obama bounce, the lead went from Coakley up by 2% to Brown up 53-46 at the end. The margin was 52-47.

So OK, if you want to argue that Obama mattered for 1%, go ahead. imo, the last week of the campaign, ran by the DNC and DSCC operatives, was just as much of a message disaster as was Coakley's campaign. Palin, abortion, rape. No clue whatsoever as to young voters-- and why she lost too (they didn't turn out to vote).

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-24 12:40PM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's popularity did carry Coakley

However according to the exit polls (and Rasmussen), those who made up their minds in the last 72 hrs broke (slightly) for Coakley. The race was lost in the 4 week period from Dec 11 to Jan.

by vecky 2010-01-24 01:35PM | 0 recs

In looking at Obama's coat-tails one can hardly look at elections in which he was not on the ballot. That's just silly.

It's a completely different thing to examine if Obama's popularity in general will boost democrats regardless. Two points: Without HCR, not at all. Then Clinton's popularity (60+ at the end of his term) wasn't enough to boost dems over the 50% mark in 1996, 1998 or even 2000.

by vecky 2010-01-23 10:02PM | 0 recs
It's not 2012 yet

I agree that it is really pointless to guess whether Obama will have coattails or not -- he isn't going to be on the ballot again until 2012.

The question is whether he can influence elections. We only have three really poor data points to look at, including Martha Dukakis Coakley, who ran the worst and insulting campaign that I have ever lived through.

Let's start with focussing on better candidates instead of Obama, and go from there.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-23 11:49PM | 0 recs
RE: It's not 2012 yet

IMO, Presidents whether Dem or Repub, can make minor swings in the electorate - but not that much. Bush was at 30-25% approval, but the GOP ticket still got 47% of the vote.

I would say 2-3% are about the limit of how much presidents can influence elections.

by vecky 2010-01-24 02:38AM | 0 recs
when you base your image on post-partisanship

it's not surprising that your popularity doesn't rub off on Democrats. Obama doesn't want the image of Democratic president. He is trying to be a president who stands above the parties.

by desmoinesdem 2010-01-23 10:10PM | 1 recs
RE: when you base your image on post-partisanship

Imagine that, a President for ALL of us.  No wonder the Democrats keep stabbing him in the back, he is trying to treat the "opposing team" with respect (not that they act like they deserve it, but I digress...).

by Hammer1001 2010-01-23 11:29PM | 1 recs
RE: when you base your image on post-partisanship

Liberals stab him in the back, conservatives stab him from the front, and the "moderates" stand by and watch. Good times :)

by vecky 2010-01-23 11:38PM | 0 recs
Does anyone have this man's back?

Seriously? Who is out there fighting for this guy?

Liberals are disappointed they didn't get everything they wanted withouthaving to lift a finger.

Conservatives hate him because of the color of his skin.

And moderates...?

What other President in recent times has faced more hostility domestic and international?

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-23 11:52PM | 1 recs
RE: Does anyone have this man's back?

Who has this President's back?

Nobody at MyDD, DKos D (as in Dennis Kucinich)U or Bartcop.

I didn't even vote for the guy and I spend a lot of time here sticking up for him.

by spirowasright 2010-01-24 12:42AM | 0 recs
RE: Does anyone have this man's back?

There are some grown ups, but thay are mostly packing it up. I have seen many GBCW diaries from notable diarists. The netroots cannot handle dissatisfaction like adults. And the irony is, we have a President who actually listens.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-24 02:08AM | 1 recs
RE: Does anyone have this man's back?

Daily Kos is firmly behind Obama.  SCOTUS just mobilized Liberals, Moderates and Conservatives against the power of corporations to totally control our democracy.  Republicans will be on the wrong side of history when they start attacking Obama's jobs bills.  Anyone who doubts our resolve to stop the Republican insurgency and win more seats in November is trying to read some tea leaves before they've even been plucked from the branches.

It will be interesting to hear what the doomsayers will have to say in July when the entire Country is in full steam blaming the Republicans for the trillions of dollars lost from the 2008 economic collapse and their mind-numbing refusal to shift toward the center on economic policy.

People are trying to predict 2012 when it is a few seasons too early to even predict 2010.  But hold on to your hats everyone.  The battles with SCOTUS and for jobs will make the 2008 presidential campaign seem like a love fest.  Why?  Because Republicans are at death's doorstep, and they know it;



by Georgeo57 2010-01-24 03:04AM | 0 recs
by Georgeo57 2010-01-24 03:07AM | 0 recs
RE: Does anyone have this man's back?

Well, OFA volunteers made over 2 million calls on his behalf to get out the vote in MA.  Those volunteers seem to have his back.

by Endymion 2010-01-24 02:12AM | 0 recs
RE: when you base your image on post-partisanship

I do think he's bought the post-partisanship horse now with all of last years failures, and now will be able to ride it for the rest of his presidency no matter how partisan his actions become.  I don't have faith that he'll fight, of course, but I have hope.

by Endymion 2010-01-24 12:21AM | 0 recs
RE: when you base your image on post-partisanship

Obama started off as "post-partisan". Witness his 2004 convention speech (contrast to Zell Miller at the GOP convention). I don't think it's something he's bought into. It's just something he his.

by vecky 2010-01-24 02:41AM | 0 recs
Is this "problem"

...a case of Obama not being involved enough, or with the Democratic Party, and the candidates involved, thumbing their nose at Obama and doing it the way they want...and looseing.  Seriously, Coakley seemed like a really bad candidate all the way over here in MN.

As for the prediction that Thune will be Pres...I laugh and laugh.  If he ever did, MN would rather become a part of Canada than live through that monstrosity...you though W was bad...whoa.  I lived with Thune as my rep in SD and he sucked...even SD Republicans have said he is a total boot lick.  Daschle killed himself, Thune just stepped into the vacuum.  Pawlenty has a better chance.  Yeesh, one pretty face and nice hairdoo and we fear Reagan all over again.

Now someone explain to me again how Obama is supposed to control everything, from Jobs to bills being passed, while NOT being...well, Cheney.  He is letting Congress do their job, and, well, they suck.  Not his problem.  He is attempting to take the "captains of industry" and make use of them rather than lord over them...and, well, they suck at being good innovators and job creators, even though the mantra is to cut taxes so they can hire more people (which they don't anyway).  So now that it is becmoing apparent that neigher the Dem party, the Congress, nor Business is any good at doing the right thing at the moment, maybe since he has given them a chance to do right, and they have failed, he sill start to step up to the plate to shore things up.

I just have a hard time seeing how he can make things right, so we have a good political system in this country that represents its people fairly, without becoming a semi-dictator...like Cheney.  I honestly prefer this mess to having that "Dick" in the WH.

by Hammer1001 2010-01-23 11:40PM | 1 recs
RE: Is this "problem"

Well I remember at the start of the Health Care bill Obama advocated it be paid for in part by simply changing the charitable deduction limit. And the Senate and House leadership just ignored him and went on with it's own thing. Then during his Joint Session speech Obama spoke in favor of a basic catastrophic coverage plan (among other things) and there again - no action on that.

by vecky 2010-01-24 02:44AM | 0 recs
The disconnect

So Obama has high approval in places where democrats lost. This tells me people see no connection between voting for the democratic candidate and supporting Obama.

I can not tell you how many times I heard people here say that they think the Senate would be better off with 59 democrats than 60. Watching Liberman and Nelson, can you blame them?

Perhaps people are smarter than we give them credit for? Perhaps they have the gut feeling that the supermajority gave undue power to these despicable senators, and they know 51 votes can get stuff done.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-24 02:13AM | 0 recs
Democrats are far better off with 59 Senators

1)  Republicans can no longer escape accusations of obstructionism.

2)  Democrats now have a goal for 2010; winning 64 or 65 Senate seats (See Nate Silver's March 2009 Senate chart).

3)  Democrats now have a strong reason to kill the filibuster.

4) The Democratic base is more mobilized when afraid than when discouraged.  59 seats is scarier than 60.

5)  With the likes of Lieberman, Nelson, Landrieu, etc. those 60 seats did not confer an advantage.

6)  Now through the Spring, Summer and Fall, at risk Republican Senators will have to vote with Democrats, and Obama's bi-partisan goals will be met more fully.

by Georgeo57 2010-01-24 03:16AM | 0 recs
I have to agree

60 democratic senators was a fatal abstraction.

And 60 we didn't even have. More like 55. I have to agree, I think it's better this way.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-24 03:22PM | 0 recs
RE: I have to agree

55 seems a bit arrogant. 50 and take away the Veeps tie-breaker. That would put us in a much more powerful position.

by QTG 2010-01-24 06:20PM | 0 recs
I was discounting the DINOs

The more the better. I was referring to 60 being a fatal abstraction.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-24 10:39PM | 0 recs
Respectfully disagree with diarist

The recent trending was more about the infefficacy of proposed healthcare reforms, imho - the america people was actively involved in that whole thing. I was standing on a corner hearing two random people talking about it at 7 am in the morning, it was the first thing on their minds. Recent trends are a referendum on the senate christmas eve vote boondoggle

You're forgetting the radical effect Obama had on the south and on the 50 state strategy.  Obama's coattails are extremely long but right now the lobbyists are standing on them and trying to play king of the mountain.


If Obama and Pelosi ram-rod healthcare reform through the congress by passing it as a Budget item, it will only require a 51 vote majority in the Senate and they will end up looking golden.

Check the house to see whats going on. They seem to be standing up for real healthcare reform. The whole thing that went down in Mass. was a senate thing, and we all know what the senate did to healthcare reform.


And to make matters worse - they even tried to do it to the people of Massachusetts, the one state that has real universal healthcare. This was a slap in the face to Mass. Coakley was going to be good for them? Oy vey. The corrupt senate bill for healthcare reform that she would have supported - ultimately defined her proposed tenure and that was easily unpalatable to the clear-thinking people of massachusetts who now self-identify as independents to a majority.


If Obama has a shoot-out with not only the people who voted against healthcare reform, but the weak , paid-off democrats who tried to water it down -

We will see it happen. Remember, Pelosi and the house version of the bill can still pass. It just takes a little bit of political hardball - the same kind of Hardball the GOP would have played.

Just pass it as a part of the budget. It will be funded for 7 years or something like that, but once its in place - I promise you nobody will ever touch it. And that only requires 51 votes. Coakley vs. Brown doesn't matter. A National Health Service will happen.

Obama's got coattails.


by Trey Rentz 2010-01-24 07:36AM | 0 recs
The "Mistrust of Government" Meme,

which is put about by the likes of David Brooks by way of explaining the motivations of the Teabaggers, is garbage.  You would like to point out to the many grey heads you see at their rallies that the government sure seems to do a good job of sending that Social Security check and paying those Medicare bills, doesn't it?  And for those of you affected by the recession caused by Republican mismanagement, why do you take the extended unemployment checks and subsidy for COBRA if you mistrust government so much? And I'll bet more than a few of you worked in the defense industry, or maybe government itself.  Many of the baggers live in States that are in fact parasitic on the Federal government.

What motivates the Teabaggers is nothing more than classic Republican sore-loser-ism, resentment of a black President, particularly one whose educated airs remind one of one's own inferiority, and resentment of Democratic Party achievement.

We are headed into a very dark place if these people get the upper hand.

by Bob H 2010-01-24 11:34AM | 0 recs
New York City? Seriously?

Look I understand including Virginia and New Jersey in your analysis, but it's ludicrous to see NYC as a big loss for us.  Mike Bloomberg spent literally $100 Million campaigning for that seat - he was never gonna lose.  Actually, if anything, I think we should be happy that the race was even close at all.

No, I don't consider the NYC mayor's race some big loss for us, because it wasn't ever a fair fight to begin with.  And besides, while Bloomberg isn't the best choice, he's not really a wingnut conservative.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure he's not even a Republican anymore - I think he now runs as an Independent.

by Obamaphile 2010-01-24 01:50PM | 0 recs
Beau Biden is OUT...

Not good news.  Deleware AG Beau Biden (Joe's son) will not be running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Deleware this year, which I think automatically moves the race from toss-up to "Leans Republican"... Mike Castle is very popular there, and he's exactly the sort of GOP candidate that can win in that state.  Biden was our best hope for keeping it in Democratic hands.  I'm afraid there's a good chance we'll lose that seat now.

by Obamaphile 2010-01-24 03:10PM | 0 recs
It's Obama's voters

Young voters, African American voters, the people who hauled Obama through the primaries--these groups have a piss poor record for voting in Congressional Elections.  Obama needs to get his voters asses in gear.  Hillary's voters show up for the off-years.  McCain's and Bush's voters show up for the off years.  Obama, his volunteers, and his "team of rivals" best find a way to get his people to the polls.  It's their party now.  Their party to wreck.

by SuperCameron 2010-01-24 07:15PM | 0 recs
Well, lets get the Obama voters in gear then...

The day Rahm Emanuel was appointed was a dark day.


Howard Dean ignored?


Smartest thing Obama could do is to use Howard Dean!!

by lja 2010-01-24 07:55PM | 1 recs
Obama is running for retirement in 2012

by hddun2008 2010-01-24 09:23PM | 0 recs


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