Barack Obama’s ideology problem

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Doug Schoen, (admittedly a Clinton operative) points to Barack Obama’s values problem:

Most importantly, he must answer this question once and for all: What are his values? … Exit polls in Indiana and North Carolina show clearly that fewer than 60% of white voters believe Mr. Obama shares their values. In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 45% of the American electorate said they can identify with Mr. Obama’s values, compared to 54% who say they can identify with John McCain’s values.

For Obama, this is the danger of the Jeremiah Wright issue, his association with people like Bill Ayers, the self-inflicted lapel-pin discussion, his statement about “clinging to religion and guns”, and so many other things. His race becomes the exclamation point on a long sentence, not the problem itself.

This is a symptom of a problem discussed previously by Mark McKinnon from the McCain campaign. Basically, Barack Obama is perceived as a liberal.

McKinnon had data he attributed to pollster Bill McInturff showing the extent to which the public perceives various past and present Democratic candidates for president as “liberal.” He said 39 percent of the public viewed Jimmy Carter as liberal, while 38 percent viewed Bill Clinton as liberal. Both, obviously, won. Al Gore was at 49 percent and John Kerry was at 56 percent. Hillary Clinton, McKinnon said, is at 52 percent, and Barack Obama is at 49 percent. He sees this as extremely problematic for them — it puts them in league with the losers.

Cons. Mod. Lib.
John McCain 41% 41% 9%
Barack Obama 8% 28% 54%

These questions have started to get asked in public polling. Rasmussen asked the question 3/31-4/2, before Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana, “clinging to guns and religion”, or the most recent iteration of Rev. Wright. Results:

Fifty-four percent (54%) of Likely Voters nationwide believe Barack Obama is politically liberal. … Twenty-eight percent (28%) see Obama as moderate …

Forty-one percent (41%) believe that John McCain is politically moderate while an equal number believe the presumptive Republican nominee is politically conservative.

So let’s be clear what the numbers demonstrably show. A majority of the American people believe that Barack Obama does not share their values. A majority of the American people think that he is liberal. I don’t think that I have seen a survey in recent years that puts % liberal even over 30%. In other words, it could be possible to paint Obama as ideologically out of touch.

Now, I am not sure that that’s a winner. Narrative is narrative, and will likely be dominant. But narratives are set by events and facts. And the facts demonstrate that there is fertile ground for creating cultural distance between Barack Obama and the American people. And Obama will give us more, whether more about Reverend Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ, more about arugula, more offensive nonsense from Michelle Obama, more “bitter” and “clinging to religion and guns”, and more bowling scores of 37.

And then there are issues. The American people also trust McCain more than Obama on the economy (here and here), not to mention security, etc.

Still an uphill swim. But we have to remember the tools that we have to fight.