Barack Obama's bad night


Tuesday night turned into a remarkably rough evening for President Barack Obama.  He suddenly canceled a trip to North Carolina, right after an embarrassing press conference in which hapless White House spokesman Jay Carney tried to defend the President’s utter cowardice on the gay marriage issue.  Carney was reduced to describing Obama’s enigmatic, “evolving” views by referring to the President’s position as simply “it,” like a monster from a 50s horror film. 

“It is as it was,” mumbled Carney, in response to a question about whether the President’s fully evolved position on gay marriage might be popping out of its cocoon any time in the near future.  That’s one of the funniest sound bites since Bill Clinton speculated that the word “is” can have many different definitions.  In fact, if you put them together, you’ve got the perfect slogan for Obama 2012: “It Is As It Was, Depending On What ‘Is’ Is.”

North Carolina’s Defense of Marriage Act went on to win by over 15 points, which is either good or bad news for Obama, depending on how things are going inside his “Altered States” sensory-deprivation chamber.  If “it is as it was” means he still feels the way he ostensibly did in 2008, then North Carolina just ratified his deeply held conviction about the nature of marriage, but it’s probably going to cause some headaches when he arrives in Charlotte this September to be officially nominated for a second term.

The marriage thing wasn’t even the worst news for Obama to come out of North Carolina on Tuesday night.  Fully twenty percent of the state’s Democrat primary voters chose “No Preference” instead of supporting Obama, who ran unopposed.

Obama did have a nominal opponent in West Virginia: a prison inmate named Keith Judd, who checked into the Gray Bar Hotel for “making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999,” according to the Associated Press.  He’s a carpetbagger, as he maintains no residence in West Virginia – he’s currently living in Texas, and would be obliged to remain there during his hypothetical first term in the Oval Office, unless his next parole hearing goes exceptionally well.  And yet, he won 41 percent of the vote against Obama in the Democrat primary.

Better yet, his strong showing technically earns Judd the right to send a delegate to the Democrat convention in September, although no one has filed to be his delegate yet, and the state Party is scrambling to find some means of disqualifying Judd before someone does.  The AP offers amusing quotes from a Democrat voter who chose “that guy out of Texas” because he doesn’t like Obama, and another who was all set to pull the lever for Judd until she found out precisely where in Texas he is out of.

Over in Wisconsin, the latest attempt by union bosses to overturn the 2010 election produced an embarrassing primary, in which their hand-picked candidate, Kathleen Falk, was crushed by the job-killing, tax-and-fee raising mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett.  Walker’s collective bargaining reforms are such a huge success that opposition to them has essentially disappeared from the campaign, even though they are the nominal reason for the recall. 

Worse still for the Democrats, Walker actually pulled more votes than Barrett and Falk combined in the primary, even though Walker was essentially running unopposed.  A lot can still happen in the election, but that’s an encouraging sign of voter enthusiasm for Walker.  Maybe Wisconsin voters will yet decide to turn their back on Walker’s reforms, and go back to the policies that left their state finances in ruins… or perhaps they’re tired of getting jerked around by union bosses who think they can overturn elections.

The victory of Richard Mourdock over longtime incumbent Dick Lugar for the Republican Senate nomination in Indiana is bad news for Obama, too.  Mourdock’s insurgent campaign hit Lugar on a number of specific issues, but it also made a great deal of hay over Lugar’s status as “President Obama’s favorite Republican.”  Pundits who plan to spend today digging into the mechanics of Mourdocks’ commanding win, and the role of those Tea Party angry birds, should not overlook the Obama albatross.

Speaking of the Tea Party, their big return to the national scene is a bad omen for the incumbent President.  The Tea Party never really “went away.”  That’s a false impression pushed by the same media that swooned over the ugly gang of anarchists and malcontents known as “Occupy Wall Street,” a group that descended into full-blown domestic terrorism at the exact moment the hard-working Middle Americans who make up the Tea Party circled the next election on their calendar and started organizing again.

Do try to get this right, media analysts: there is no “liberal Tea Party.”  The Tea Party is unique because it’s composed of people who genuinely care about specific policy issues, and when they see someone like Dick Lugar who isn’t compatible with those issues, they organize to vote against him. 

They don’t care as much about party affiliation as the caricatures painted by their opponents would suggest.  They generally view the Republican Party as a better vehicle for their policy agenda, but nothing upsets them more than the suggestion they should vote for someone just because he’s got an “R” next to his name… especially when he’s been perched in the Senate for 36 years, nurses a reputation for the “bipartisanship” that saddled us with $16 trillion in debt, and has not previously shown much enthusiasm for the kind of reform the Tea Party and affiliated groups desire.

There’s nothing magical, or irresistible, about this.  The Tea Party is doing exactly what a grassroots movement is supposed to do: express both a clear critique and clear solutions, and support candidates who agree with them.  Sometimes they lose.  They often choose to concentrate their efforts on important races they think they can win.  Tuesday night, they won big, and made it clear they will be a force in the 2012 election. 

That’s very bad news for the incumbent President, who is a powerful exponent of every specific policy they oppose.  It has nothing to do with his physical appearance, and accusations to the contrary will only energize them further, as will time-wasting irrelevant distractions about Mitt Romney’s roof-mounted dog carrier, or his wife’s wardrobe choices.  I suspect those Tea Party voters will find themselves quite energized for the duration of this electoral season.

Update: Great news for Judd fans!  CNN says his expected release date is actually June 24, 2013.  He’ll only miss a little of his first term in the Oval Office.

Also, while I don’t yet have a lot of details about Judd’s policy platform, Dave Weigel at Slate says he’s a registered super-hero, so he’s got that going for him.  Given the reason for his incarceration, I’m fairly confident that Judd would have authorized the killing of Osama bin Laden.  How could any of his other policies be worse than Obama’s?