(Originally published on the Obama White House Diaries March 17, 2011.)
Yesterday, the website One News Now published an article written by George Barna of The Barna Group entitled “Tough to Bump Obama in’ 12”. That headline was disturbing and gave me pause to consider the source. Since I wasn’t familiar with Barna or his organization, I decided to pay a visit to his website. The following description is listed in the “about” section:
“Who is the Barna Group?
Barna Group is a visionary research and resource company located in Ventura, California. The firm is widely considered to be a leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture. The Barna Group offers a range of customized research, resources and training to serve churches, non-profits, businesses and leaders.”
Barna’s organization appears to, among other things, perform market research polls within the context of Christian faith. The Barna group also has a conservative bias, so it was surprising that they were relatively pessimistic regarding 2012 this early into the campaign season. I use the word “pessimistic” based upon the following quotes from George Barna:
“Things don’t always stay the way they are, but what we find is that the dominant Republican prospective candidates at this point — Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney [and] Ron Paul — they’ve all got some things going for them, but it’s going to be an uphill battle if they’re hoping to win the White House.”
“You don’t really necessarily get full reporting on everything, he’s (Obama) a great campaigner, [he’s] very charismatic out on the stump and he’s got his party’s support.”
“If the election for the presidency were held today, Mr. Obama stands a better-than-even chance of being re-elected.”
Barna goes on to say that the Republicans will most likely attack each other in order to get the nomination. Unfortunately, the nominee will end up “bloody and half-poor”. He also believes that Palin would be the easiest opponent for Obama to defeat, while Huckabee would be the toughest.
George Barna’s pessimism seems to be based on three premises.
1. The mainstream media will continue to be an extension of Obama’s campaign organization, with little interest in reporting news. The real mission will be to promote Democratic talking points and spin news events in order to secure this president’s second term.
2. Republican candidates fighting for the nomination will denigrate each other while spending a significant amount of their campaign money before taking on Obama. Barna believes that this will weaken the GOP, both monetarily and politically.
3. The Republican Party is in a catch 22. According to Barna’s poll, Sarah Palin has the best name recognition, yet she garners the most unfavorable ratings among Protestants and Catholics when compared to other GOP candidates. Perhaps her unapologetic tone in defense of traditional American beliefs makes independent voters uncomfortable.
I think the first premise is probably accurate. Much of America’s journalistic community has lost all credibility. Just this week, the New York Times decided to restructure its bestseller list by removing three books written by conservative authors from their top 10. The move was clearly political, since the authors were also Fox News contributors Mike Huckabee, Dick Morris and Frank Luntz. Their latest books have been relegated to NYT’s “Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous categories, despite the fact that they made the Wall Street Journal’s top ten list. Perhaps that’s why NYT’s circulation continues to drop.
The second premise could be correct, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Republican candidates are smart, they will campaign for the greater good instead of the personal victory. But Barna will be justified in his pessimism if Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin, Paul and Romney take the low road by calling out each other’s faults. They should be focusing on Obama’s faults. After all, there are hundreds of damaging topics from which to choose.
The third premise, however, gives me the most concern. Like it or not, our nation is going through a political and cultural civil war right now. On the one side, we have the progressive, selfish and somewhat ruthless entitlement crowd. They prefer to abdicate their personal freedoms and responsibilities to a monolithic, all-encompassing governmental structure in hopes of receiving something for nothing. On the other side, we have a nation of citizens who prefer to return to the more traditional values that have propelled America to world leader status while simultaneously providing the best opportunities for happiness, security and prosperity. But that reward comes at a price. It requires personal accountability, work ethic and a deep pride in America. Conservatives understand that our national interests should take priority before attempting to save the rest of the world from itself. Progressives believe the opposite. Yes, we are indeed experiencing an ugly political and cultural civil war.
So who will win this war? Which GOP potential nominees can beat Obama in 2012? At this early stage, it is hard to predict, but in my opinion, Palin and Gingrich are the most vocally unapologetic politicians when it comes to promoting America and the belief in American exceptionalism. Paul and Romney may share similar views, but their messages seem to be less visible. And Huckabee’s image seems watered down. Case in point: He spent considerable time on television last year promoting Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood obesity campaign. His interviews with the First Lady had an almost Rodney King quality. “Can’t we just all get along?” Sorry, but with America’s $14 trillion deficit and diminished place in the world, perhaps Mr. Huckabee should tone down the Mr. Rogers persona and get on board with Palin and Gingrich’s condemnation of this administration. Because if Mr. Rogers heads into the general election, we might get a sequel of “RINO 2 – Clone of McCain”. And we all know how that story ends.
Yes, its time to step up the GOP game. Its time to take the ball away from Obama. We can beat him with a good Republican point guard. Just look at the picture.