Politics: Need-to-Know Video

N2K: North Carolina and the Hispanic Vote

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
May 8, 2011, 8:16 p.m.

A High Point Univ. poll; con­duc­ted 9/25-30; sur­veyed 400 adults; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 4.9% (re­lease, 10/8). Tested: Sen. Richard Burr (R), ‘02 can­did­ate/Sec/State Elaine Mar­shall (D) and busi­ness­man/mo­tiv­a­tion­al speak­er Mike Beitler (L).

Gen­er­al Elec­tion Match­up

R. Burr 45% E. Mar­shall 31 M. Beitler 4 Un­dec 18

Burr As Sen.

Ap­prove 37% Dis­ap­prove 28

(For more from this poll, please see today’s NC In The States story.)

It’s too early to know for sure what the fal­lout will be from the fight over the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed — and, more re­cently, com­prom­ised — re­quire­ment for re­li­giously af­fil­i­ated in­sti­tu­tions to provide health in­sur­ance that cov­ers con­tra­cep­tion. A week ago, be­fore the flap, a string of pos­it­ive eco­nom­ic news had helped Obama reach a 49 per­cent Gal­lup job-ap­prov­al rat­ing. There was 45 per­cent dis­ap­prov­al in the Feb. 6-8 Gal­lup three-night mov­ing av­er­age, his highest Gal­lup ap­prov­al rat­ing since mid-June. In the next few days, Gal­lup tracks re­por­ted ap­proves-dis­ap­proves of 48 to 46 per­cent for both Feb. 7-9 and 8-10. Then, about the time the con­tro­versy erup­ted, Obama’s ap­prov­al dropped three points to 45 ap­prov­ing, with 48 dis­ap­prov­ing in the Feb. 9-11 track. On Monday, Gal­lup re­por­ted 46 per­cent ap­prov­ing, with 47 per­cent dis­ap­prov­ing in its Feb. 10-12 rat­ing. The ap­prov­al was up a point, and dis­ap­prov­al dropped one. With nightly track­ing, it’s al­ways prudent to watch for sev­er­al days be­fore draw­ing a con­clu­sion. But the latest num­bers sug­gest that Obama took a hit, al­though it’s hardly a free-fall.

This was al­ways go­ing to be a fight over which side of the con­tro­versy did a bet­ter job of fram­ing the is­sue. If the fo­cus was on con­tra­cep­tion, Obama and his team would cer­tainly come out ahead. In par­tic­u­lar, young­er wo­men, es­pe­cially single wo­men, are one of the best demo­graph­ics for him. With­in the Demo­crat­ic Party, the chal­lenge is get­ting more of them to vote.

On the oth­er hand, if this fight be­came per­ceived as largely one over re­li­gious free­dom, re­quir­ing in­sti­tu­tions af­fil­i­ated with the Cath­ol­ic Church to pay for ser­vices fun­da­ment­ally at odds with church doc­trine, that’s a dif­fer­ent story, and it’s one much more prob­lem­at­ic for Obama and Demo­crats. Keep­ing in mind that Demo­crats were once the party of choice for Cath­ol­ics, at least among whites, it is now al­most en­tirely a sec­u­lar party. In­deed, among white voters, fre­quency of church at­tend­ance, re­gard­less of af­fil­i­ation, is highly pre­dict­ive of vot­ing. The more fre­quently white voters at­tend church, the more likely they are to vote Re­pub­lic­an. Those who in­fre­quently or rarely at­tend church are far more as­so­ci­ated with vot­ing Demo­crat­ic.

The polit­ic­al choice faced by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion on wheth­er to push the ini­tial rule re­minded me of something that happened years ago (the names of the state and the elec­ted fig­ures in­volved have been left out to keep things fo­cused on the ba­sic ques­tion). A con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate for the U.S. Sen­ate took on a lib­er­al in­cum­bent Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or in a fairly lib­er­al state. The in­cum­bent Demo­crat sup­por­ted a right to late-term abor­tions, a po­s­i­tion that was ana­thema to the GOP chal­lenger. While the state’s voters over­all were far more sup­port­ive of the pro-choice side of the abor­tion is­sue than the pro-life side, polls showed that late-term abor­tions were far more con­tro­ver­sial. When the GOP chal­lenger in­sisted on us­ing the late-term abor­tion is­sue, the GOP Sen­ate cam­paign com­mit­tee chair­man strenu­ously ad­vised the chal­lenger not to push that is­sue. The older and wiser party lead­er, I am told, ex­plained to the chal­lenger that if he could some­how build high walls around the late-term abor­tion is­sue and keep the fight con­tained there, it might be a win­ner. But the lead­er cau­tioned that it was im­possible to build those walls high enough: It would spill out and in­ev­it­ably be­come a fight over abor­tion writ large, mak­ing it a loser. The end of the story is that the chal­lenger chose to use the is­sue in ad­vert­ising any­way, and it soon grew to be­come a fight over abor­tion. The in­cum­bent Demo­crat nar­rowly won.

The White House clearly could not keep this is­sue con­tained either, and it star­ted a firestorm that was big­ger, I sus­pect, than an­ti­cip­ated.

But there is a second point worth not­ing: This fight totally shif­ted the fo­cus away from a flurry of pos­it­ive eco­nom­ic news that had pushed Obama’s num­bers high­er and seemed to bright­en his reelec­tion pro­spects. Why pick a new fight when the lead weight that has hung around your neck is be­ing lightened?

This should also be a re­mind­er that the elec­tion is just un­der nine months away. Those who said that Pres­id­ent Obama had sud­denly be­come a strong fa­vor­ite for reelec­tion, be­cause the eco­nomy seemed to be turn­ing around, ig­nored the fact that there is a long time for the eco­nomy to move up or down. Noth­ing re­mains con­stant in polit­ics for nine months.

If you think of the pres­id­ent’s reelec­tion out­look on a red-light (likely lose), yel­low-light (highly com­pet­it­ive), and green-light (likely to win) basis, the eco­nomy for most of last year was such that there was a red light on for Obama’s pro­spects. While no one knows what will hap­pen between now and Novem­ber, his situ­ation has im­proved to a yel­low light. This po­s­i­tions him bet­ter, but it hardly gets him out of the woods. This re­cent con­tra­cep­tion con­tro­versy should be a re­mind­er that there is still a lot of time and a lot of fights left, giv­ing sup­port­ers on either side the op­por­tun­ity to de­clare vic­tory or throw in the tow­el.

What We're Following See More »
Senate Judiciary Sends Questions to Loretta Lynch
2 days ago
Sens. Paul, Cruz, Johnson and Lee Oppose Senate Health Care Bill
3 days ago

The four Senators released a joint statement, saying in part, "There are provisions in this draft that repreesnt an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs."

No Comey Tapes
3 days ago

Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon, "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

Senate Healthcare Bill In Trouble?
3 days ago
Senate Republicans Unveil Healthcare Bill
3 days ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.