(May 7) -- Ask Americans which party's candidates they favor in this November's midterm elections, and their answers have been favoring Republicans.
But two new polls, each aiming to take more specific measures of voter sentiment, point to potential limitations of the anti-Obama movement.
According to a new ABC/Washington Post survey, 14 percent of Americans will volunteer, unprompted, that
President Barack Obama was born in another
. On the surface, that suggests a win for "birthers" and the
(half of the respondents who
said Obama is foreign-born admitted that their belief is just a suspicion, not based on evidence).
A further follow-up question, however, reveals that birthers' attacks on the president aren't causing lasting damage: A third believe that no matter
where Obama was born, he's doing a good job as president.
Meanwhile, a new Pew Research Center Poll
found that labeling
the president and his supporters "socialist," a frequent tactic of his opponents, is not leading to the overwhelming public backlash that those
flinging the s-word must intend. The results showed that Americans on the whole are "not so negative" about socialism, with a relatively small
majority regarding it negatively.
But 18- to 29-year-olds like socialism as much as they do capitalism, with each term viewed positively by 43 percent of respondents in that age group.
What these poll results suggest is that the anti-Obama movement will have to offer a more sophisticated critique of his policies than has been offered
on tea party posters. That dynamic was borne out in some early Republican primaries, where establishment candidates prevailed over more conservative
challengers with tea party support.
"Among incumbents fending off challengers, Republican Reps. Dan Burton and Mark Souder of Indiana and Howard Coble of North Carolina ... won
The Associated Press on Tuesday's
And yet the GOP is unlikely to drop the "socialist" labeling tactic or shout down birthers -- not when such language is so useful in rallying the
base, as Larry Sabato Jr., director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, notes.
"It's red meat for the ideological base, which either understands what the term means, or thinks they do, and they understand it to be a bad
thing," he says. "This is not language to change anyone's mind. This is preaching to the choir."
To reach beyond the base, the right will have to either make more nuanced political arguments or at least come up with alternative talking points.
Since there's no penalty in politics for unoriginality, perhaps in 2012 they'd be better off latching on to another word to attack Obama:
[edit on 7-5-2010 by -Blackout-]