Campaign polls are moving targets, especially presidential campaign polls. But they serve as campaign snapshots.
Two polls -- the Washington Post/ABC and New York Times/CBS News polls --- have rattled the Obama campaign. Why, they ask, could new jobs and the economy be on an apparent upswing, while the president's approval ratings are dropping. Not just dropping, they're gyrating.
Moreover, we're watching the most vicious primary battle in American history. The GOP candidates and their super PACs have pummeled each other relentlessly. Still, Mitt Romney either leads or is tied with the incumbent president (Washington Post/ABC poll released in the second week in March.) Obama led Romney 50%-46%, one month ago.
Further, contraception and women's reproductive rights were openly questioned by GOP primary candidates in debates. This set off a national media firestorm. Despite this, the same poll shows that, six weeks later, the approval rating by women of the president has dropped three points, from 53% down to 50% -- women are Obama's key constituency.
There are lessons to be learned here.
First, primaries have changed forever.
Billionaires' super PACs, high-speed multi-platform social media, two dozen debates sporting game show formats, immediate fact-checking bloggers, loose-mouth talk show hosts and YouTube virals have all changed the paradigm.
The Democrats will learn this in four years when they conduct their open primaries for a presidential candidate.
Second, at the same time, it doesn't make much difference.
We are in the era of what I call "MIADD," or 'media induced attention deficit disorder.' As the political consultant character, Steve Schmidt, says in the HBO movie Game Change, news now lasts about 48 hours. Now, it's become entertainment.
In other words, the bloody GOP primary with all its drama has the staying power of the last Super Bowl, the last American Idol and the last election. Two days later, no one remembers or cares.
Third, we're in the post-2008 financial crash era.
Americans have lost patience in politicians. That economic crash cost Americans $14 trillion in wealth, one in four homeowners now owes more than their home's worth, eight million jobs were lost and only 2 million new jobs have been created since. They've lost patience and distrust in their politicians -- including the president, the Congress and candidates. They distrust bailed out financial institutions (the Occupy movement) and distrust deficit-spending governments (the Tea Party movement.)
I have labeled this, "fusion politics."
For many Americans, both parties have fused into one. Each party has created trillion-dollar deficits, each party has vastly expanded Medicare just as it is moving towards insolvency, each party has conducted a costly, tragic, undeclared meaningless war. The American voter has reason to distrust politicians and political parties.
Finally, Americans have developed immunity to spin. Take the most recent jobs report.
The Administration's surrogates were on the talk programs touting the new jobs created. However, while 227,000 new jobs were created, 72% were low-paying jobs. While the unemployment rate remained at 8.3%, two million workers dropped off the charts and stopped looking for work. Last month, black unemployment rose from 13.6% to 14.1%. The total unemployed, under-employed (part time workers wanting full time work), and those who have stopped looking (U-6) is approaching 14.9% of the work force.
American workers don't need to know the details of the monthly jobs report. They see it at work, hear about it from friends, watch as they and their neighbors struggle to pay mortgages with part time wages. Trust the American voter. They see through the rhetoric and spin.
So, this may answer the Obama campaign's question.
The incumbent president has unstable poll numbers and falling approval ratings because the American voter has had enough.
While Republicans and Democrats fire off rockets at each other, Americans can't forget painfully felt realities. For example, the institutions which they bailed out with billions, the institutions that nearly sent the nation into an economic depression, which have been left untouched and unreformed -- especially the mega financial institutions. Hence the key quintessential Occupy movement protest message, 'Who will bail us out?'
Unlike four years ago, it's the American voter, not a candidate, who now wants change, real change. They're going to continue to vote down every politician until they find a generation of elected officials that will face political realities. That's what the recent gyrating polls show.
(The theme of this post comes from my recent appearance in San Francisco on CurrentTV's "War Room" with Jennifer Granholm, Michigan's former governor. We each had the same poll, but focused on very different results --- which is precisely the point of my post.)