Friday, June 24, 2011

Karl Rove's delusional wishful thinking

Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove's columns in The Wall Street Journal, like his various public utterances (usually on Fox News), are for the most part a hilarious litany of shameless spin. While they often provide useful insight into mainstream Republican thinking -- and, if you read carefully (as Jon Chait regularly points out), between the lines, insight into Rove's own partisan agenda, trying to push the party this way or that, while also trying to be as optimistically pro-Republican as possible, the facts be damned -- it's awfully hard to take them seriously at face value. Because they amount basically to a huge quagmire of bullshit.

Well, Rove was at it again yesterday, arguing/"arguing" that Obama is "likely to be defeated in 2012." Why is that, you ask? (You did ask, right? No. More power to you.) Oh, well:

The reason is that he faces four serious threats. The economy is very weak and unlikely to experience a robust recovery by Election Day. Key voter groups have soured on him. He's defending unpopular policies. And he's made bad strategic decisions.

But is that all true? And will he really be brought down? Well, the economy is certainly a potential problem politically for Obama. No one denies that. But actually Obama is not nearly as unpopular as Rove suggests, and it's very likely that core Democratic (and pro-Obama) constituencies will return to the polls in 2012 after sitting out in 2010, letting (pro-Republican) older white voters dominate the midterms.

Ah, but Rove notes that Obama's support among those core Democratic constituencies -- Latinos, young voters -- has effectively collapsed since his inauguration, while blacks may not vote in the numbers they did in 2008 (potentially turning swing states like North Carolina against him) and while, overall, Obama's approval has collapsed pretty much across the board.


But not to worry. Rove is just trying to fool us with numbers. They actually mean far less than he claims. As Chait explains:

I really enjoy the use of statistics here. Rove begins by announcing that Obama's approval has dropped since his inauguration -- when it was an obviously unsustainable 67% -- to 45%. (Which puts Obama very close to an even proposition for reelection, not the likely loser Rove paints him as.) A drop from 67% to 45% is a decline of 22 percentage points. Rove adds more numbers as if these are additional revelations, each one a fresh nail in Obama's reelection coffin: He's dropped 25% among men! 24% among the elderly! 23% among independents!

This is how Rove's delusional "analysis" works (though surely he himself knows better). We're meant to think, reading Rove, that Obama's popularity is collapsing, but really his numbers have simply come down to a normal level from their Inauguration highs. That was bound to happen, not least with the economy struggling (what with the mess he inherited from Bush), the tough struggle over stimulus, the bailouts, and health-care reform, Republicans engaged in an all-out campaign of obstructionism (no to all compromise) and propaganda (Birtherism, etc.), and, yes, his own errors and missteps (because no president is perfect and everything is magnified).

So, actually, even 45 percent isn't bad. It puts him in a strong position, not least given the horribly weak Republican presidential field. (He won't be running against, say, an Eisenhower or a Reagan).

Could he lose? Of course. But is it "likely," as Rove suggests? Not even close.

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