Opinion

About Those Approval Numbers

Jedediah Bila, Red Eye, 11-21-12By Jedediah Bila

This morning I stumbled upon a column at The Hill titled “Obama honeymoon may be over.” It begins:

The second-term honeymoon for President Obama is beginning to look like it is over.

Obama, who was riding high after his reelection win in November, has seen his poll numbers take a precipitous fall in recent weeks.

A CNN poll released Tuesday showed Obama’s favorability rating underwater, with 47 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving of Obama’s handling of his job.

Over the course of the last month or so, I have seen several columns discussing Obama’s shrinking approval numbers and have received plenty of phone calls and emails about them. Do the numbers tell me that the public isn’t as satisfied with Obama as he’d like them to be? Sure.

However, the numbers don’t tell me that the American public prefers the Republican alternative.

President Obama won re-election amid horrific economic numbers. He didn’t win because people were as enamored with him as they were in 2008. He won because despite his policy shortcomings, voters still believed he was the better option. And until that changes, Obama’s approval numbers really don’t matter all that much.

The GOP knows it’s in trouble, which is why the RNC put forth the Growth and Opportunity Project, acknowledging weaknesses in outreach, messaging, communications, campaign data collection, marketing, and other areas that need to be addressed. It is also why a serious conversation about immigration policy is happening, led by two potential 2016 presidential candidates, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. And it is one of the reasons why the issue of gay marriage, an issue that many young people are very passionate about, has taken center stage. Trends in the county have shifted when it comes to certain issues–gay marriage and immigration, in particular–and the GOP is trying to figure out how to approach those shifts.

I’m not a Republican, but I am happy to see the party acknowledging strategy weaknesses and being realistic about voting patterns on key issues. I’m not telling the GOP what to stand for; however, I do think they need to be clear about what they do stand for. They need to make up their minds. And when they run candidates, they need to be committed to the kind of messaging and outreach that can actually score a win.

If the Republican Party wants a shot at beating the next Democrat presidential candidate, it’s not Obama’s approval numbers they should be looking at. It’s their own.

Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila

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