Good Times with Obamacans
Susan Eisenhower is more than just another disappointed Republican. She is also Ike's granddaughter and a dedicated member of the party who has urged her fellow Republicans in the past to stick with the GOP. But now Eisenhower, who runs an international consulting firm, is endorsing Barack Obama. She has no plans to officially leave the Republican party. But in Eisenhower's view, Obama is the only candidate who can build a national consensus on the issues most important to her--energy, global warming, an aging population and America's standing in the world.
"Barack Obama will really be in a singular position to attract moderate Republicans," she told newsweek. "I wanted to do what many people did for my grandfather in 1952. He was hugely aided in his quest for the presidency by Democrats for Eisenhower. There's a long and fine tradition of crossover voters."
Eisenhower is one of a small but symbolically powerful group of what Obama recently called "Obamacans"--disaffected Republicans who have drifted away from their party just as Eisenhower Democrats did and, more recently, Reagan Democrats in the 1980s. They include lifelong Republican Tricia Moseley, a former staffer for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, the one-time segregationist from South Carolina. Now a high-school teacher, Moseley says she was attracted to Obama's positions on education and the economy.
Former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough, who anchors MSNBC's "Morning Joe," says many conservative friends--including Bush officials and evangelical Christians--sent him enthusiastic e-mails after seeing Obama's post-election speeches in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. "He doesn't attack Republicans, he doesn't attack whites and he never seems to draw these dividing lines that Bill Clinton [does]," Scarborough told NEWSWEEK.
Plenty of Republicans are immune to the Obama swoon, of course. The Republican National Committee has emphasized a recent analysis suggesting that Obama had the most liberal voting record in the Senate last year. But even small numbers of Obamacans can help reinforce the candidate's unity message and bolster his "electability" argument. In Iowa, the campaign identified more than 700 registered Republicans who committed to caucusing for Obama (although staffers say they don't yet know how many showed up to vote). And in the Super Tuesday state of Colorado, campaign staffers say they found more than 500 erstwhile Republicans who were willing to switch their party registration.
Even if Republicans don't convert in more significant numbers, the friendly outreach may blunt the ferocity of GOP attacks. One senior aide to John McCain has already said he's reluctant to attack Obama: last year, McCain's adman Mark McKinnon wrote an internal memo promising not to tape ads against the Illinois Democrat if he were the nominee.
In short, Good TimesTM and UnityTM are ahead if you support Sen. Obama! When I read this article, I was reminded of the GloriousTM days of the 2004 campaign when Sen. John Kerry was getting one endorsement after another from moderate Republicans, including the son of Dwight D. Eisenhower - John Eisenhower. Go read what Eisenhower said in his endorsement of Kerry to refresh your memory. In fact there were many more Republicans who endorsed Kerry - you can see lists here and here. There was, at times, a sense of optimism that maybe many more voters would likewise go for Kerry rather than Bush - even though GOPers like John McCain were staunchly behind Bush. Of course, the reality turned out to be completely different. Needless to say, the most laughable aspect of the article is the claim that Sen. Obama's friendly outreach to the GOP may blunt the ferocity of GOP attacks against him. Just hilarious. The ferocity of GOP attacks was certainly BluntedTM - swift-boat-style - by Kerry's courting Republicans in 2004.
After encouraging and supporting "fighting Democrats" for some time now, it is fascinating that the in-thing amongst parts of the netroots and activist base today is to support someone who believes in being friendly and civil to Republicans. No surprise then that parts of the Democratic DC Establishment love Sen. Obama - he validates their behavior over the last several years, of espousing progressive positions when they talk and then eventually submitting to the GOP - in a civil and friendly manner - when it comes to doing what is right. The bonus for the Establishment is that they now have chunks of the netroots on their side. We've come a long way in forgetting history in this campaign.
These states are among four in the South voting in primary elections on Tuesday (the others are Alabama and Georgia) in a region that went solidly for President Bush in the last two elections but where Democrats hope to make inroads this November, capitalizing on dissatisfaction with the Republicans. That hope may be unrealistic, even in the crucial swing states.
“I wish there was somebody worth voting for,” said Buford Moss, a retired Union Carbide worker sitting at the back table of Bucky’s Family Restaurant here, with a group of regulars, in a county seat that — as the home of the 11th president, James K. Polk — is one of the ancestral homelands of Jacksonian Democracy.
“The Democrats have left the working people,” Mr. Moss said.
“We have nobody representing us,” he continued, adding that he was “sad to say” he had voted previously for Mr. Bush. He was considering sitting out this election altogether. “Anyone but Obama-Osama,” he said, chuckling at a designation that met with mirthful approval at the table.
In interviews around the courthouse square, voters stuttered over Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in matchups with Republicans, particularly Senator John McCain, whose military credentials give him solid regional armoring. Some white voters voiced outright alarm over Mr. Obama, and though he is a Christian, allusions to his supposed Muslim ties were frequent, as were suggestions that he remained a disturbingly unknown quantity.
White men, in particular, expressed general fearfulness — over a possible terrorist attack, over an unnamed threat from Muslims, over Hispanic immigrants and over the weakening economy. These fears led them to reflect positively on Republican candidates, perceived as more hard-line on most fronts.
“I think our greatest fear is our terrorist enemies,” said Waymon L. Hickman, senior chairman of First Farmers & Merchants bank, whose headquarters building dominates Main Street here.
“You get Peloski up there and they say we’ve lost the war, and that just fuels our adversaries,” said Mr. Hickman, incorrectly pronouncing the name of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He described himself as an “independent” voter but said he could not envision voting Democratic unless it was for a centrist like Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee. As for Mr. Obama, “he’s got to say the things he’s saying, to win the primary,” Mr. Hickman said, expressing disdain.
In Yell County, in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, a place so ornery that tombstones and bird dogs were once said to have taken part in elections, a number of residents said local voters would probably support Mrs. Clinton — former President Bill Clinton is said to have relatives in the county — unless she were matched against Mr. McCain. Mention of Mr. Obama merely provoked discomfort.
“Statements I’ve heard, Obama, they’re seriously afraid of him,” said Bobby Rollans, a retired teacher, sitting at Savanna’s, a restaurant perched on the Arkansas River. Bill Mashek, a retired National Guard officer, said, “I’ve talked to some yellow-dog Democrats; they won’t vote for Obama.”
Ominously for Democrats, perhaps, even longtime Republican voters dissatisfied with their party are nonetheless still stuck on the fence.
“This is the first election that I am more seriously wearing that independent sign,” said Charlotte Battles, the director emeritus of a boarding school in Columbia for children with developmental disabilities.
“This year, I think there is a feeling of a need for change,” Ms. Battles said, “whether that’s a Democrat, or a Republican.”
Bottom line? Anyone going into the general election thinking this kind of "outreach" is going to somehow make a sea change in the electorate is being, um, a bit optimistic. I would of course be happy to be proved wrong.