Politics: White House

Obama Honors National Teacher of the Year

Add to Briefcase
May 3, 2011, 9:31 a.m.

A Fox News poll; con­duc­ted 10/9 by Pulse Opin­ion Re­search (IVR); sur­veyed 1,000 LVs; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 3.1% (re­lease, 10/12). Party ID break­down: 46%D, 35%R, 19%I.

Obama As POTUS

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom 9/18 Ap­prove 48% 79% 13% 38% 44% 51% 45% Dis­ap­prove 45 15 81 49 49 41 46

(For more from this poll, please see today’s DE SEN story.)

Pun­dits. Ana­lysts. His­tor­i­ans. Polit­ic­al sci­ent­ists. The land­scape is lousy with them this elec­tion year, and I love talk­ing with them.

But in our PBS News­Hour polit­ic­al cov­er­age this year, we are mak­ing a spe­cial com­mit­ment to seek out the opin­ions of the people who ac­tu­ally cast the votes. And in each of the con­tests we have covered so far, we have found they do not dis­ap­point.

“[Mitt] Rom­ney, I mean. He’s a nice guy,” Vic­tor­ia Nwasike told Judy Wood­ruff in Iowa. “He’s pol­ished. He’s back for a second time around, you know, but he’s just not the per­son who I would get up in a snowstorm to vote for.”

That was less than a month ago. Now, as Rom­ney struggles to re­claim the mantle of in­ev­it­ab­il­ity that once seemed as­sured, her words seem pres­ci­ent.

Time and again, while re­view­ing the tran­scripts of con­ver­sa­tions Judy and I have held with voters in Iowa, New Hamp­shire, and South Car­o­lina, I have real­ized that the voters have been a step ahead of us all along.

In New Hamp­shire, I met Debi Rapson, a dis­en­chanted Obama voter who planned to vote Re­pub­lic­an this time. But she wor­ried that Rom­ney seemed out of touch with people like her who see their re­tire­ment sav­ings drain­ing away.

“Some­body asked him in one of the town hall meet­ings about how middle Amer­ica is go­ing to get back to hav­ing a life,” she told me. “And he said, yes, you know, I’m really wor­ried about my in­vest­ments too. Hello? Middle Amer­ica doesn’t have any in­vest­ments any­more!”

Talk­ing to these voters has ad­ded real heft to our cov­er­age this year. I am con­stantly re­minded how darned smart voters are, and how they are al­most al­ways ahead of the polls and the pun­dits.

Gwen Ifill in­ter­view­ing voters in New Hamp­shire. (PBS News­Hour)

I was hanging around the edges of a Newt Gin­grich rally in Beaufort, S.C., last week on the day the polit­ic­al world was quak­ing with Rick Perry’s exit, Rick San­tor­um’s be­latedly con­firmed Iowa win, and new re­ports that Mari­anne Gin­grich was un­load­ing on her ex.

The voters I chat­ted with were well aware that Gin­grich had his is­sues, but they were look­ing for op­tions. “I think he gen­er­ates a good bit of chem­istry with people, but he’s got a little bit of lug­gage” Jerry Wheeles, a Myrtle Beach busi­ness­man, told me, adding with a chuckle: “I do too, of course.”

Exit polls three days later showed that most South Car­o­lina voters were like Wheeles. They in­tern­al­ized Gin­grich’s short­com­ings, eval­u­ated the al­tern­at­ives, and de­cided to vote for him any­way.

Most of the en­gaged voters we’ve talked to, in fact, are act­ively en­gaged in weigh­ing the pros and cons of their choices.

“I have got one vote,” New Hamp­shire Re­pub­lic­an Don Byrne told us just be­fore the primary there. “Do I vote stra­tegic­ally for the per­son who I think could beat the pres­id­ent? Do I vote tac­tic­ally for the per­son who I think rep­res­ents my views?”

“To me, Mitt Rom­ney is the status quo in the Re­pub­lic­an party,” Re­pub­lic­an B.J. McLaugh­lin told Judy in Iowa. “And I think a lot of us — I don’t know how many of us are tea parti­ers or liber­tari­ans — we’re dis­sat­is­fied with the status quo of the Re­pub­lic­an party.”

As Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­ans pre­pare to go to the polls on Tues­day, the battle roy­al between Rom­ney and Gin­grich has in­deed be­come a de­fin­ing one. Gin­grich casts him­self as the reneg­ade, the big-think­ing out­sider who is best suited to take on the status-quo es­tab­lish­ment.

Mean­while, in try­ing to weak­en Gin­grich, Rom­ney has em­braced his stand­ing as the es­tab­lish­ment’s choice — rolling out en­dorse­ment after en­dorse­ment from elec­ted of­fi­cials and main­stream Re­pub­lic­ans who have been watch­ing the Gin­grich surge with dread.

I would tell you what those folks have to say, but you can find that any­where. Judy and I have been hav­ing far more luck talk­ing to folks you’ve prob­ably nev­er heard of — like Ann Ubel­is of the Beaufort, S.C., arm of the tea party.

Gwen Ifill with Ann Ubel­is of the Beaufort, S.C., tea party. (PBS News­Hour)

“No com­prom­ise, no sur­render,” she told me when I asked if, in the end, she would just choose the most elect­able can­did­ate. “You go for your true prin­ciple. You vote on prin­ciple. And what shakes out in the end, then, I’m sorry, you are go­ing to hold your nose and you’re go­ing to vote for the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee.”

The next test of my voters-in-the-drivers’-seat the­ory: Flor­ida, Flor­ida, Flor­ida.

What We're Following See More »
Former Top Aide to McConnell Says GOPers Should Abandon Trump
12 hours ago
Trump Defends Confederate Statues in Tweetstorm
17 hours ago
Trump to End Business Councils
1 days ago
McConnell: “No Good Neo-Nazis”
1 days ago
CBC Members Call for Removal of Confederate Statues from Capitol
1 days ago

"Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are reviving calls to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol following the violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia." Rep. Cedric Richmond, the group's chair, told ABC News that "we will never solve America's race problem if we continue to honor traitors who fought against the United States." And Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said, “Confederate memorabilia have no place in this country and especially not in the United States Capitol." But a CBC spokesperson said no formal legislative effort is afoot.


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.