The bloom was off the rose for Democrats as their convention kicked off in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday. The attempt to recapture the magic of the 2008 election is faltering as party faithful are running away from the incumbent candidate, President Obama, to preserve their own political careers.
At least 31 big-name Democrats are skipping this week’s festivities in North Carolina. Senatorial no-shows include Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
On the House side, Reps. Carolyn McCarthy and Louise McIntosh Slaughter of New York, Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, Jerry McNerney of California and Mark Critz of Pennsylvania are among those avoiding their leader. Rep. Larry Kissell is in his North Carolina district, but he has decided not to make the 10-mile drive to the convention center where his party will renominate Mr. Obama.
Even the Kennedys are staying at arm’s length. Joseph Kennedy III, who is running for retiring Rep. Barney Frank’s congressional seat, is staying in Massachusetts. Caroline Kennedy told the New York Times that Democrats “may not be as exhilarated as they were last time.”
Nevertheless, there are some who still defend Mr. Obama. “I give him very high marks for his job performance,” actress Ashley Judd told The Washington Times Tuesday in Charlotte. “That’s what this convention is about — honestly giving the American people the facts about everything that has been achieved and being very clear about the president’s policies and the ongoing improvement that will manifest in the upcoming four years.”
Ms. Judd doesn’t even blame Mr. Obama for August’s record-high gas prices, saying, “No president controls the prices at the pump; that’s in the hands of the oil companies.”
When we asked if we are better off than four years ago, Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, responded, “Undoubtedly, we are.” He backed up this position by citing “first and foremost” that General Motors is not declaring bankruptcy and the country supposedly is no longer net-losing jobs every month.
Mr. Gibbs deftly used the Obama campaign slogan in saying the president doesn’t think we are where we need to be, so we need to “keep pushing forward to provide middle-class families with the security they deserve.” However, the “forward” idea doesn’t ring true to most Americans.
According to a Resurgent Republic poll last week, 1 out of 4 Democratic voters thinks the country isn’t moving forward under Mr. Obama’s leadership. Perhaps explaining why this is so, 54 percent of Democrats think America is still in a recession. Just 49 percent of liberal voters think the economy has improved on Mr. Obama’s watch.
Four years ago in Denver, Mr. Obama easily filled the 75,000 seats in Mile High stadium for his acceptance speech in front of Greek columns. This year, Democrats are struggling to fill the similarly sized Bank of America Stadium for his re-election oration. The party is resorting to busing in people from neighboring states.
If even the party’s most loyal supporters aren’t jazzed this time around, Democrats have reason to be concerned about low turnout if the rest of the public is equally unenthused with President Obama in November.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.