There have been some mini debates around here, none of which have gotten their own thread, that debate whether or not President Obama’s victory last November was attributable to President Bush. This is one of those situations where I can see both sides, so I want to figure out what other people think to help me make up my mind.
On the one hand, Obama was the most charismatic candidate the Democrats had put up in a long time. His campaign was remarkably well organized and didn’t make that many mistakes, and was able to engage in unprecidented fundraising. McCain, on the other hand, was not all that charismatic, his campaign was disorganized and often fumbling, and it was perpetually desperate for money.
On the other, at the time of the campaign, Bush was enjoying historic levels of unpopularity. He was being blamed for the war and the poor economic situation, and the Democrats were largely successful in their attempts to tie McCain to the Bush administration.
So, what say you, dopers? Does President Bush deserve primary credit (or blame) for President Obama’s election? If Bush had been a more popular and successful president, would we still have President Obama in the White House today?
Contributed to it, yes. Without Bush’s unpopularity and McCain’s similarity to him in terms of policies, Indiana and North Carolina probably would gone for McCain, and Virginia would have been much closer. However, the election wasn’t all that close overall; Obama won by 7%, and had more than twice as many electoral votes as McCain. The tarring of the Republican brand (of which Bush is probably the primary cause, but not the only one) increased Obama’s margin of victory, but did not create it.
I think it’s unrealistic to assume that without Bush’s unpopularity, the race would still have been between McCain and Obama.
If Bush had been widely perceived as successful, the Republicans would probably have nominated a candidate that more closely resembled him, and I think the Democratic nomination might have been different as well.
I think it’s fair to say Bush the Elder rode Reagan’s coat tails, and any warm bodied Dem was gonna win in 1976, and again in 2008.
That noted, Obama brought home the bacon for his party, and upset the Hillary Coronation many expected. He did it by studying the rules of the game, developing a winning strategy, and binding the whole thing together with remarkable charisma and undercredited political savy. He was the right candidate, in the right place, at the right time, with the right plan.
I vote Bush caused a Dem victory by being the worst President in my lifetime, but Obama seized the moment. The real contest was for the Dem nomination. To paraphrase Edwin Edwards, if Obama can avoid getting caught in bed with a dead girl or a boy, (live or dead) he’ll likely get another term.
The Onion scores again. Barack Hussein Obama, a half-black freshman Senator who went to school in the largest Muslim country in the world, won a large electoral victory promising to contradict Reaganomics and increase government spending.
Bush really sold conservative ideology, and the answer was never compromise. When Iraq turned into a hellhole while we were supposed to be staying the course, when the free market failed to price risk in a spectacular fashion, and when conservatives made no grand improvements on immigration, legalized abortion, crime, gay marriage, or foreign conflicts, people got sick of rewarding failure. Obama had to shine to beat Hillary, but even Kerry could have beaten McCain this time.
By the time Obama was running, people were becoming disenchanted about the way things were going. We had gone from Mission Accomplished amd “we’ve turned the corner” to a quagmire. People were finally questioning the justifications for invading Iraq. The newspapers delighted in telling us about giant bonuses and bailouts while plants were being closed and work being “outsourced” to other countries. We had been through ENRON. We’d seen what really happened in New Orleans, how Heckuvajob Brownie was the fall guy for the administration’s inaction. People were “getting uncomfortable” with torture, rendition, an GITMO. Right or wrong, they saw McCain as “more of the same” in some regards.
This was for some people, the worst administration they’d ever seen, and the switch was as much a “throw the bums out” as anything.
There’s more than that, of course. I just rattled off the things that came to me first. And when you consider those, weren’t they bad enough? How many other administrations had such a consistent run of disasters? Other “leaders” have been dragged through the coals for a lot less.
I don’t buy that. Jimmy Carter had 2 major things going for him that the other Democrat contenders did not: he was a Washington outsider, and he was in a position to be able to carry the south. IMHO as screwed as the Republicans were, Carter was the only candidate that could have won.
Yet he still barely beat Ford, a bumbling debater who inherited the White House in a shit storm. Carter won by only 2% points and the electoral vote was the closest since 1916.
There are a couple scenarios where Ford would have won had he carried 1 or 2 states he lost, lost by as close as half a percentage point.
I don’t believe any of the other Democrats could have carried the south like Carter did, and therefore would not have won in '76.
There was one difference. Despite the jokes and the Chevy Chase pratfalls, no one really felt a strong dislike for Ford. When you consider the bag he was left holding, I think history will be kind to him.
Carter had his strengths, but he screwed up a bit during the campaign. I do think you’re right that Carter’s Southern support was essential, and it’s doubtful at best that anyone else could have compensated for that loss with strength in another area. Brown might have been able to swing most of the West Coast and Southwest, but I don’t think those would have been enough to counter Alabama et al. going for Ford.
Either Democrat would have beaten McCain in 08. The real contest was between Hillary and Obama in the primaries, as has been wisely said earlier by other posters. Hillary vs. McCain would not have been so runaway as Obama was. Millions of new voters joined to vote for Obama.
It’s worth noting that Bush didn’t really change much between the start of the campaigns and the election, but the polls between Obama and McCain started off pretty much neck-and-neck. Somewhere between choosing Palin as VP and “The fundamentals of the economy are strong”, though, McCain plummeted vs. Obama. Now, arguably, the latter is at least partly Bush’s fault, but Palin was all McCain’s doing. Unfortunately the two events were close enough together to make it difficult to disentangle them in the polls, but McCain’s mistakes certainly played a significant role. I think the biggest factor in Obama’s victory is that he simply didn’t make any mistakes.
I tend to think it was primarily the Bush legacy and the timing of the economic cycle.
But here’s a curious thing: in every presidential election since 1980, the guy with the more likeable personality has won. (You might quibble with 2000, since Gore got more votes.) I thought at the outset that Obama had to be considered the favorite on that basis alone.
No, it was pretty close at first. Here’s the electoral vote page from June 18th, 2008:
While it predicts an Obama win with 317 electoral to McCain’s 221, 73 of those electoral votes (and 20 of McCain’s), are barely in the column, with him winning by 1 or 2% points…within the margin of error.
It was even closer in the middle of August, with McCain eating up the gap:
The middle of September even has Electoral Vote predicting a McCain win (although, again, with a lot of states on the knife)
It’s not until the end of September and beginning of October that Obama really starts pulling away.