A few of pieces of US polling data caught my eye over the weekend. The first is that a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted last week has found that 46 percent of Americans do not think that President Obama will be re-elected in 2012. This comes on top of the news that Obama has lower approval ratings than any previous president at this stage in their presidency, according to a survey by Gallup. The other intriguing poll result comes from a survey by Rasmussen Reports, in which 36 percent of people said they would vote Democrat, 23 percent ‘Tea Party’, and 18 percent Republican.
The really interesting thing there, of course, is that there is no political party called the ‘Tea Party’ – rather, the ‘tea parties’ are a series of anti-big government grassroots organizations that have sprung up all over the US in the wake of the Wall Street and Motor City bailouts, President Obama’s stimulus package, and the Federal government’s attempted healthcare reforms. While their policy objectives are, unsurprisingly, not clearly defined or codified, the tea party movement is very clearly a manifestation of what Grover Norquist calls the ‘Leave Us Alone Coalition’ – people of various political backgrounds who want lower taxes, limited and fiscally responsible government, and less state intervention in their lives.
As I’ve said before, this is precisely the ground that the Republicans should be re-colonizing after the disgraceful profligacy and statism of the Bush years. If they were to manage it successfully, I’ve no doubt they could win back Congress in next year’s mid-terms, and then be in a position to curb Obama’s excesses. To put it simply, the future of the ‘Grand Old Party’ lies in rediscovering common ground with libertarians, and developing a coherent, small government message. But will they realize that in time?