I know we're supposed to be celebrating the Obama Comeback Narrative today, but this piece from Sam Graham-Felsen in today's Washington Post, concerning the outcast state of the volunteer base at Organizing for America, isn't playing along.
Graham-Felsen was a 2008 campaign workhorse, blogging his heart out for the campaign by "telling the stories" of the people who had joined up with OFA, "many of whom had never been engaged in politics or were reengaging after years of disillusionment." The way he puts it, many of the people whose stories he helped tell are hurtling backwards in the direction of disillusion:
During the battle over tax cuts, Obama's grassroots network, Organizing for America, was silent. An OFA spokesman said that the network would engage supporters when the time is "ripe." But many people feel the time is ripe now -- that tax cuts for millionaires in the midst of cuts in basic services and a spiraling deficit are unacceptable -- and they don't understand why Obama won't let them fight.
Let's put this in terms of the topic that's drawn the attention of the pundits -- the administration's constant attack on its own base. When the White House discusses the matter, they say that the focus of their ire is on the "professional left," and that Democratic voters remain behind President Obama. They have a point: just take a look at the analysis of this NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from Mark Miller. Miller remarks that "perhaps the most striking observation about Obama's numbers is how stable they've been over the past year." GOP pollster Bill McInturff adds: "This is a president who retains very strong numbers with a political core constituency."
And remember when Mark Halperin, who's wrong about everything, said that Obama's coalition had "shattered?" SPOILER ALERT: Halperin was wrong about that too.
So, yes: people who were nominally inclined to vote for Barack Obama remain pretty well disposed to the thought of voting for him again. And I'd imagine that Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or John Thune or whoever would, indeed, have to put forward an amazingly appealing set of arguments to change that. But as Graham-Felsen points out, "the issue isn't the left -- it's the list." And on that score, there's a lot that these polls don't measure. Are people inclined to knock on doors for Obama? Or work at phone banks? Attend rallies? And most critically, give money? Let's kick it back to Graham-Felsen:
Obama needs this list in 2012 -- and he needs its members to dig much deeper than in the last election. The Citizens United ruling has allowed campaigns to become an unprecedented corporate cash free-for-all -- and Obama will likely need to raise far more than $500 million from the grassroots to be competitive.
Remember: Graham-Felsen is concerned that the most fervent of Obama's former supporters are feeling alienated, so you have to wonder how the next strata of Obama's supporters feel about about the lack of fight coming from the White House (save the fight that's always directed at them). None of this is going to transform today's progressive base into tomorrow's Romney voter. But it could mean that a potential Romney campaign could be fighting a much more moribund opposition on the ground.
The Democrats have narrowed down their 2012 convention site locations to St. Louis and Charlotte. It's looking like you shouldn't anticipate them booking the Edward Jones Dome or Bank of America Stadium anytime soon.