Liberal Base Sours on Obama

Justin Sink, The Hill, September 26, 2014

President Obama’s poll numbers are plummeting in deep-blue states, such as New York and California, with core liberal supporters who have stuck with him through thick and thin beginning to sour on his leadership.

Obama’s decisions to punt on immigration reform, defend government surveillance and attack fighters in the Middle East have all alienated parts of the coalition that elected him to the White House twice.

The growing dissatisfaction on the left could limit Obama’s ability to help Democrats in the midterm elections and could threaten his political legacy if–as happened with George W. Bush–his party begins to abandon him.

The slipping support for Obama is most evident in a pair of recent surveys of Democratic strongholds. Just 39 percent of registered New York voters surveyed in a Marist College poll said Obama is doing an “excellent” or “good” job, down six points from June and the lowest level in the state since the beginning of his presidency.

Earlier this month, only 45 percent of California voters said they approved of how Obama was handling his job–a 5 percent decrease from June.

National polls also suggest a growing discontent.

A YouGov survey released last week showed the president’s approval rating at 40 percent, and that among Democrats, Obama had slipped eight points since June.

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A Pew poll this summer found that, despite Obama’s efforts to explain and reform the surveillance programs, 58 percent of so-called “solid liberals” continued to oppose the NSA efforts.

Concerns about the president’s use of military force, meanwhile, have intensified with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Liberals largely elected President Obama in 2008 on the promise he would extract the U.S. from Middle East conflicts, and the prospect of a new military campaign is not sitting well with many of them.

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That isn’t true on another issue that is weighing the president down in polls: immigration.

Since announcing that he would delay executive action on immigration reform until after the midterm elections, Obama’s numbers have plummeted with Hispanic voters. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of Latino voters approved of the president’s performance, down 15 points over the past 20 months.

The White House acknowledged the delay would be unpopular, especially with Hispanics.

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Holding off on immigration is expected to boost some of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats, including Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Mark Begich of Alaska. All had asked Obama not to act unilaterally on immigration.

But as Obama’s base abandons him, helping Democratic candidates becomes a tougher task for the White House. Although the president has attended a slew of committee fundraisers, he has yet to appear at a campaign event with any Democratic candidate this cycle.

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