How the Recession May Save Obama
I missed this important Ron Brownstein piece when it appeared three weeks ago. Perhaps you did too. If so, you'll want to correct that error.
But the vast majority of the 2008 Obama supporters I met, both blue- and white-collar, were not prepared to abandon him. A few saw signs of economic improvement. With several women, Obama benefited from unease over Romney’s conservative social views. (“I look forward to maintaining control of my own body,” Jody Rodney, a homemaker and singer told me. “It’s kind of important to me.”) Other 2008 supporters praised Obama’s health care plan. But the most powerful glue for many of the president’s voters was the sense that he has earned a kind of sweat equity in delivering grudging progress against the same economic gales so disruptive in their own lives. “With the situation he came into, he did the best he could,” said McKinney, 33, a single mother who started work recently as a medical technician. “There’s no quick fix. The problems were 12 years in the making.”
The day’s conversations captured plenty of threats to Obama’s reelection, particularly the disillusionment of defectors like Koplitz, and minimal enthusiasm about voting among several Hispanics. In culturally divided states like Colorado, an outpouring of socially conservative rural voters beyond these suburbs could also swamp Obama.
But communities like Littleton and Broomfield usually tip the state, and the interviews suggest that Obama retains important assets, including faint excitement about Romney, even among Republicans. Most important, many voters here seem to be measuring Obama’s performance not against the booming 1990s, but rather the rocky ground they mostly have been traveling over since. “Things have been a struggle, but that’s everywhere, as far as I can see,” said Aaron Gibson, McKinney’s boyfriend and a short-order cook. “I’m working … for less than I’m worth.” That fatalism was much deeper among blue-collar than white-collar workers, but almost everyone I met portrayed the economy’s difficulties as far more intractable than a cyclical slowdown.
That sense of sustained struggle provides the yardstick for judging Obama. Those defecting from him, while generally unconvinced that Romney could do better, seem ready to simply try another approach. Those sticking with Obama believe that he’s produced all that can be asked against the headwinds of a turbulent new normal. Ironically, if the candidate of hope from 2008 survives, it may be partly because many Americans, after a grueling decade, view both the presidency and the economy with lowered expectations.