The Democratic Convention Disconnect—Obama and Middle America

Obama still hasn't made the sale with Middle America.

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DENVER—Democrats are certainly energized by Sen. Hillary Clinton's home run speech and the energy level at the Democratic convention is clearly kinetic. But the national polls are showing something completely at odds with Democrats' spirits.

Normally it's dangerous business to pay too much attention to daily presidential tracking polls. But early this week, both Rasmussen Reports and Gallup were reporting some pretty stunning trends. In a week when the candidate whose party is having its convention should be heading toward the traditional 5 point bounce, this year's Democratic candidate is in a dead heat or slightly behind his Republican rival and losing ground instead of gaining it.

When I suggest to Democrats at the convention that this was fairly predictable, they look at me cross-eyed. All the hubbub over Clinton's supporters has focused on why her base, predominantly white working class conservative Democrats and white women over 40, isn't transferring over to the Obama camp.

But missing in this question is the difference in perception of the two candidates. Despite Clinton's claim that her supporters should be behind the candidate who is similar to her on the issues, the two candidates are perceived as being miles apart. She is seen as a centrist, moderate Democrat and Sen. Obama is seen as extremely liberal. Even National Journal named him as the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate based on a series of important votes. The Journal named Sen. Clinton as the 14th most liberal member—that from among some 50 Democrats in the U.S. Senate, putting her much closer to the center than Obama. So it is no wonder Gallup reported Wednesday:

Barack Obama has been struggling to maintain his Democratic base thus far in August, and according to weekly averages of Gallup Poll Daily tracking, the problem seems to be with conservative Democrats. Within the Democratic Party, Obama's losses are primarily evident among the relatively small group that describes its political views as conservative. The 63 percent of conservative Democrats supporting Obama over McCain in Aug. 18-24 polling is the lowest Obama has earned since he clinched the Democratic nomination in June. At the same time, there have been no similar drops in support for Obama in the preferences of liberal or moderate Democrats.

And Rasmussen Reports added the following: "The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows Barack Obama and John McCain each attracting 44 percent of the vote for the second straight day. When 'leaners' are included, though, McCain picked up another point since yesterday and now has a statistically insignificant one-point advantage over Obama, 47 percent to 46 percent. This is the first time since August 9 that McCain has held any advantage over Obama. The candidates have been within two points of each other on every day but two for the past months."

The Democrats nominated a junior, inexperienced Senator with no legislative accomplishments on his resume to whom young Americans and latte liberals swarmed due to his cool, celebrity-like demeanor. But then, those same Democratic leaders act surprised that Middle America isn't following suit. How bizarre!!!

The race is far from over, but Sen. Obama has a bare two months to convince Middle America he is not as liberal as his record shows him to be. In the process, he has to manage the very tricky track of not being accused of flip-flopping. He's already run right into that obstacle on taxes, offshore oil drilling, and surveillance issues and has failed miserably to keep his liberal base energized as a result.