Voters around the country will head into Election Day prepared to end their love affair with Barack Obama. Republicans should be cautious in how they interpret the voters' mixed signals.
First, it is important to understand the president's delusions. A series of reports have come out that the White House believes Democrats should embrace the president. Never mind that only a month ago White House aides said the president would be fine if Democrats campaigned against him. It appears the president is still taking it personally. One almost expects President Obama to announce publicly that these Democrats will deny him three times before the rooster crows on Election Day morning.
"He doesn't think they have any reason to run away from him. He thinks there is a strong message there," a White House official told the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty. But everything on the ground shows how much further the Democrats should have run away. In Kentucky, the Democrats' candidate Allison Grimes refuses to say if she voted for Barack Obama. In Colorado, both the Democrats' Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Gov. Hickenlooper look set for defeat. Both wrapped their arms around Obamacare, and now both are running from it as quickly as possible.
A very visible reminder of the President's baggage showed up in polling averages in the Georgia Senate race. Democrat Michelle Nunn outspent Republican David Perdue for most of the past month in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Polling showed her surge as David Perdue declined. Republicans nationally freaked out that they could lose Georgia. But that all changed on Oct. 22, 2012.
That day, President Obama went on V-103, the most popular radio station in Atlanta's black community. He urged voters to support Michelle Nunn. He said his agenda could not be carried out without Michelle Nunn in the Senate. On that day, Michelle Nunn's support in polling averages surpassed that of David Perdue.
The next day, Republicans began running ads with President Obama's statement. They coupled those ads with an earlier statement from Michelle Nunn that she would defer to the president on issues. Nunn's surge came to an end and gravity took over. In less than 48 hours from President Obama's radio appearance, David Perdue retook the lead in the polls.
As President Obama's support collapses and more national polls show even female voters want Republicans in charge of the Senate, Republicans should be careful how they interpret this development. Essentially, all the Republican leaders have done is say loudly "we are not Barack Obama."
Voters may not like the President's job performance, but they still largely like the president personally. Republicans would be wise to see voters more as spurned lovers hoping to make their boyfriend jealous. Republicans are being used by voters who desperately want to love Barack Obama again. Only it will not happen.
With the president headed into official lame-duck status, Democrats need to pin all the blame on him personally. Whoever the Democratic nominee is for 2016, they will run on a platform of what government can do for you. Consequently, as more Americans believe big government is a failure, Democrats must convince voters that it is Barack Obama, not government, who failed.
Republicans are just a useful pawn in this scheme. However, Republicans can capitalize on this. It has not gone unnoticed that, despite press reports on how awesome Obamacare is, people still deeply dislike it. Republican outside groups ran loudly in opposition to Obamacare, though Republican leaders rarely mentioned it. Showing Republicans are willing to engage in repeal of Obamacare would help them.
It should also be noted that the Republicans who have done best this year have been those who have run as actual conservatives. The small government message has worked for Republicans. Voters, right now, are willing to go GOP just to make Obama jealous. Republicans have an opportunity to keep the voters with them if they just govern as the small government conservatives they claimed to be on the campaign trail.