Whither President Obama's Coattails?
by Jonathan Singer, Sat Jan 23, 2010 at 07:20:11 PM EST
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.