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By Joe Wenner
UWIRE Forum Guest Columnist
In 2001, Republicans were on an electoral high. After crafting a shrewd GOP victory in both the presidential and legislative elections, Karl Rove made the now infamous promise of delivering a permanent Republican majority. Had someone reminded Rove of Albert Einstein’s description of politics as a swinging pendulum, he might have tempered his guarantee. Sure enough, a mere five years later, Democrats overtook both the House and the Senate.
Today, the pendulum continues to swing. Despite winning back the White House and increasing their margins in the legislative branch in 2008, Democrats may soon see the public move away from their own “political mandate.”
Recent developments are cause for President Barack Obama’s concern.
Last week, Gallup released a poll that indicates four of every 10 Americans have shifted to the right in their politics since January. While Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel may roll his eyes and claim this development is merely an expected response to Obama’s policy expansions, this development remains significant as conservative increases appear among not only self-identified conservatives, but also independents and Democrats.
When coupled with Obama’s precipitous 10-point rise in unapproval ratings between March and June, his November mandate seems more like a half-hearted suggestion.
Equally concerning for Democrats is the growing popularity of conservative media. The usually cozy niche occupied by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and others has grown dramatically in past months.
In terms of books, any bestseller list holds titles such as “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” by Mark Levin, Glenn Beck’s “Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government,” and “Catastrophe” by Dick Morris, each of which act as a direct response to Obama’s economic policies. Moreover, while each of these books has sold copies in the hundreds of thousands, liberal authors have been treated with relative apathy. The most competitive book favorable to Obama — “Renegade: The Making of a President” by Richard Wolffe — remains a distant eighth on the Amazon best seller list with a 30,000 copies sold.
Granted, conservative media has always earned a dedicated following. But in recent months, right-leaning television programs not only have kept their lead over competitors, they have widened their gap. Fox News Channel — whose prime-time lineup features conservative pundits Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck — has experienced a 30 percent increase in viewers since May 2008. CNN, meanwhile, has seen its numbers plummet by nearly 40 percent.
When these polls, sales and ratings are examined collectively, it is clear that on a grassroots level there is more than enough potential for an approaching Republican surge.
Still, while the numbers on the ground may keep David Plouffe up at night, a swing in Republican electoral momentum is far from certain.
Why? A look at GOP leadership — or lack there of — provides a quick answer.
Political movements are identified by their elected leaders, and if the Republicans don’t find one in the coming months, their movement will be nonexistent. Yet current attempts at directing the GOP by would-be party bosses have been unimpressive at best. Let’s examine a few.
In February, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s televised response to Obama’s address to Congress was underwhelming and awkward. Equally lackluster was Gov. Mark Sanford’s rejection of stimulus money, which eventually was sheepishly withdrawn. And Gov. Sarah Palin’s attempts at raising her national profile are apparently too much to balance with her elected position. This political incompetence is only augmented by the numerous personal scandals — yes, we’re looking at you Sen. John Ensign.
Without an identifiable leader, the potential for a Republican resurgence remains just that — potential. Until then, the Obama administration faces a window of opportunity to produce military, economic, and political successes to woo the public. The clock is ticking, Obama. Or more appropriately, the pendulum is swinging.
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