- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2011



Ready or not, here comes 2012. Most Americans, judged by the polls and pundits, aren’t ready for a resumption of the heavy cannonading that consumed the campaign of 2010. Nevertheless, the players are already lining up for a kickoff nearly two years hence.

First up are the milkmen, the collectors of the cash that’s “the mother’s milk of politics.” The early response of the fat-cat donors reveals that they want a little more time to nurse the disappointments of Barack Obama’s turbulent first two years.

But the “bundlers,” the milkmen who put together the network of donors, are already arranging the first of the fundraising dinners, a steady diet of surf and turf at $30,000 a pop. That’s to pay for a plate of dead fish. But nobody goes to these dinners for the food and drink. The diners are there not to eat but to be clipped, and some of them are saying they expect a clip job but they want more than promises for their money. Wall Street is particularly in a pout over some of the harsh things the president said about the greedy.

“God always tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,” says one of the Democratic bundlers, “but we’re hearing that some of our most reliable donors didn’t get what they expected for their wool last time. The clipping shears are likely to pinch this time around.”

That’s why the Democrats are plotting an earlier than usual start of the clipping season. “They’re getting organized in Chicago to start a massive two-year campaign, which I believe will be successful but has extraordinarily large challenges in some of the major states,” Peter Buttenweiser, a Philadelphia philanthropist who hosted one of the first clip jobs for Mr. Obama in 2007, tells Politico, the political journal.

Democratic fortunes are further threatened by aggressive early fundraising by the Republicans, who scent Democratic fears that Barack Obama has gone stale and may be past his sell-by date in November 2012. The messiah from Hyde Park has demonstrated that he only sinks like everyone else when he steps out now to walk across the lake. It’s the early money that attracts fervor, zeal and more cash.

The Democratic money-raking machine, outperformed so far by the Republican muckraking machine, nevertheless remains formidable. Its agents collected $745 million for the 2010 campaign, and that’s without taking any public funding. Even with the tarnish on their candidate’s halo, they could still make Mr. Obama’s re-election effort the first billion-dollar campaign. “Simply duplicating that record-breaking sum would be a feat,” observes Politico, “particularly when [Mr.] Obama’s candidacy won’t be softly wrapped in the inspirational and historic themes of his first race, but he’ll run on an ambitious record of legislative accomplishment — victories that haven’t yet been embraced by his liberal base but have energized his Republican adversaries.”

The uncertain fortunes of Mr. Obama illustrate once more that nothing recedes like success. Only yesterday, in the afterglow of the inauguration of unlimited hope and permanent change, the liberal pundits assured one and all that the Republicans were cooked geese, that if the party survived at all it would be as a permanent minority party, perhaps to be put on display at the Smithsonian Institution. Then the master salesman of hopey-changey delivered his magic elixir with the guarantee that it would cure baldness, cast out pimples, cure athlete’s foot, smooth out wrinkles and leave milady’s face baby-bottom smooth, eliminate bad breath and make warts go away. We know how that turned out. His fortunes, as measured by the pollsters’ approval ratings, have been on the slide since.

Despite his “healing” speech in Tucson, which was widely praised by both liberals and conservatives, his approval ratings as measured by the pollsters hardly moved. Scott Rasmussen, one of the most reliable pollsters over the past few election cycles, finds the percentage of Americans who disapprove of the Obama job performance to be in the low 50s over the past few months, with the percentage of those who approve in the high 40s. In the week following the Tucson shootings, the approval/disapproval numbers were almost even — 49 percent approval, 50 percent disapproval. But at the end of the first week after Tucson, the numbers were back to 53 percent disapproval.

The tiny fluctuations in the day-to-day numbers are significant, but only marginally so this far in advance of the election. The risk to Mr. Obama’s 2012 prospects is that even an emotional event like Tucson can’t move the numbers, suggesting that the perception, that he has failed as president, may be permanent.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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