Political analyst and Democratic pollster Doug Schoen tells Newsmax TV that Americans have “real doubts” about President Obama’s leadership but that the election remains a toss-up despite recent polls indicating a slight drop in support for the president among several key voting blocs.
Schoen characterizes the race as a debate “about the future,” adding: “The American people want to know how we get out of our economic crisis, how we create jobs, how we stimulate the economy . . . The first candidate who can speak compellingly about our future, offer a vision and a program, will be the next president.”
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Schoen is the author of the brand new book “Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What it Means for 2012 and Beyond.”
A recent Gallup poll that pegged President Obama’s support among African Americans at 84 percent, down from a peak in the mid-90s, has raised questions about whether African American turnout will be as robust in 2012 as it was four years ago.
Schoen remains agnostic on the likelihood of diminished African American turnout. The Gallup’s numbers “certainly [do] indicate that that’s possible,” but he cautions that "we’re not going to know about turnout until we get into the fall election campaign.”
Asked what presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney can do to siphon African American support from the president, Schoen co-opts a theme from President Obama’s 2008 campaign: “[Romney] needs to offer hope and change. There needs to be a program that improves the life of all Americans, not just middle- and upper-income Americans.”
Schoen identifies the more obvious threat to President Obama’s re-election effort as a drop in support among Latino Americans, saying, “Hispanics are a critical part of the base. [President Obama received] over 65, close to 70 percent last time, and if he doesn’t win more than 60 percent of Latinos, it is going to be very hard for him to be re-elected.”
Several recent polls have indicated that the president continues to struggle among white working-class voters. Asked why the president has been unable to improve his numbers among this key voting bloc, Schoen explains, “I think there is a real question among white swing voters whether the president really is on their side, understands their concerns, and has an agenda to advance their interests.”
After the president’s recent announcement that he supports of full marriage equality for same-sex couples, analysts across the political spectrum have speculated how the president’s evolution on the issue will affect the upcoming election. Schoen sees both benefits and drawbacks for the president on the issue, saying, “With culturally conservative white swing voters, it will probably not help and may well hurt him,” but tempering this pessimism with a recognition that, “In terms of fundraising with his liberal base, it will help.”
In the wake of the president’s evolution on gay marriage, African American support for gay marriage has risen 20 points to a high-water mark of 59 percent, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll.
Schoen warns against drawing too concrete a conclusion based on one poll, citing two recent ballot referenda that did not produce favorable results for marriage equality advocates: “I think we have to take that poll with a note of caution. If you look at the numbers in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, in California a couple of years ago, the precincts that did best for President Obama in 2008 were strongest against same-sex marriage, and those were largely African American precincts. So I’m not sure there’s been that big of a change yet.”
In recent weeks, President Obama has made an attack on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital a central focus of his campaign’s messaging. Asked whether Obama’s Bain strategy will pay dividends with voters in November, Schoen demurs: “[The voters] are not looking for a debate about private equity; they’re looking for a debate about our economic future.”
As for how Mitt Romney can effectively rebut the president’s attacks on Bain Capital? “My advice to Governor Romney is, talk about the future, not the past,” Schoen says, underscoring his contention that the voters will reward the candidate who paints a more forward-looking, prosperous vision of America’s future. “Talk about the future, not the past — what are you going to do, as opposed to re-litigating your past.”
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