Thursday, October 28, 2010


If you watched Jon Stewart's interview of Barack Obama last night, you know that the president received a lot of loud ovations. Stewart tried -- gently -- to press Obama on a few issues, but Obama rolled right over him. He spent the half hour explaining why, in his view, he did a hell of a job under the circumstances. The crowd ate it up.

But that crowd represents what I'm starting to feel is one of three parties in America -- and the smallest of the three. As Michael Tomasky writes, in a column about Stewart's upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity,

...[the] sober and earnest middle is not really Stewart's audience. Stewart's core audience is news-junkie liberals.... It's young urbanites and students. It's the out-of-place blue fish swimming the waters of the vast, red, middle-American sea. The moderate married couple with a child or two who are too busy for politics -- his ideal marcher -- are for the most part probably also too busy for Stewart.

That's the group that volunteered for the Obama campaign, but that's not who provided the votes he needed to win. The votes that put Obama over the top came from what I'll call the Rove party, for reasons I'll explain below. Today's New York Times tells us (as if we didn't already know) that they're not happy:

Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls....

The poll provides a pre-Election Day glimpse of a nation so politically disquieted and disappointed in its current trajectory that 57 percent of the registered voters surveyed said they were more willing to take a chance this year on a candidate with little previous political experience. More than a quarter of them said they were even willing to back a candidate who holds some views that "seem extreme." ...

Stewart is holding a Rally to Restore Sanity. Karl Rove -- and Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and Dick Armey and the Koch brothers -- are working to redefine sanity. Yes, they want to rally the crazy Republican base -- the people I'm thinking of as the Palin party -- but they also want to add people in the middle to that base. The CBS/Times poll says they're succeeding.

They're succeeding because they've persuaded the swing-voter groups listed by the Times that Obama's centrism is extreme, and that endorsing, say, Sharron Angle's extremism is a response to Obama's extremism that's sane.

They haven't succeeded in making that case for a handful of extremists -- say, Christine O'Donnell -- and that's where Rove comes in. We know he criticized O'Donnall. Now I see from yesterday's Telegraph in England that Karl Rove haquestioned Sarah Palin's suitability for the presidency:

Expressing the strongest public reservations about the conservative star made by any senior Republican figure, Mr Rove said it was unlikely that voters would regard someone starring in a reality show as presidential material....

"With all due candour, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of 'that helps me see you in the Oval Office'," Mr Rove told The Daily Telegraph in an interview....

The reality show is just an excuse -- Rove doesn't really care about that. He cares about two things: (1) nominating a Republican who can win in 2012 and (2) nominating a Republican who'll play ball with the fat cats who give to his organizations. He may have doubts about Palin on the latter score; he definitely has reservations on the former (as he did about O'Donnell).

Rove doesn't have a problem with extremism like Palin's as long as it's salable. Early in the general election campaign, Karl Rove gave his backing to Sharron Angle, because he thought she could be sold to swing voters in Nevada; early on, he attacked O'Donnell, because he sensed she couldn't be sold to the voters in her state. In both cases, he appears to have been right.

If the economy doesn't pick up, that could be the one key battle for 2012: the battle between Rove and the right-wing money/propaganda machine, on the one hand, and Palin on the other. It's quite possible that the former group will find someone who's salable and willing to play ball and sufficiently Palinesque. And that's who'll take on Obama. (Maybe they'll put a horse's head in the bed of the reluctant Chris Christie and drag him into the race.)


By the way, these aren't exact parallels, but we actually have two Senate races in which three candidates are running -- and in each case (Alaska and Florida), the Democrat is running third. That's not good news for the Stewart party.


Oh, and here's the most dispiriting number from the full results of the Times/CBS poll (click to enlarge):

Yup -- half the public thinks the crazies are sane.

Jon Stewart knows sanity has to be restored; much of the public thinks sanity is already here. Are they in for a surprise.

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