by Juhem Navarro-Rivera
Incumbents are in trouble and may lose in 2012. This is what pundits are saying after recent surveys show that President Obama’s and, if you follow Puerto Rican politics, Governor Luis Fortuño’s approval ratings are lagging. In the case of Gov. Fortuño, his approval was measured in ‘letter-grades’ and he received mostly “D” or “F”. In the case of President Obama, his support among an important group in his winning coalition, Latinos, is fading.
People, we’re still 18 months away from the general elections in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Chill! President Obama just announced his re-election bid and has no opponent (nor will have one until at least a year from now). Governor Fortuño’s road will be rockier but that doesn’t mean he’s unelectable (also, he has no official opponent). Remember than in a political system where only two parties have realistic chances of winning, even in bad times, an unpopular candidate can get elected. Let’s start with Obama.
The Republican field is wide open. It includes two non-serious candidates (Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump), two demagogues (Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin), two 2008 leftovers/semi-frontrunners (Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney), a pair of recent or current governors (Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty) with conservative street cred, and the odd candidate with no name recognition (Herman Cain).
While the President’s recent approval ratings have been stable, there’s a noticeable decline among Latinos. In January, the LatinoDecisions/Impre-Media poll found 70% approval among Latinos but only 43% were certain of voting for Obama in 2012. The question is, in October 2012, will that 70% (54% as of 4/7) stay away from the polls, hold its collective nose and vote for Obama, or vote for whoever becomes the Republican nominee? I can’t predict the future, but if I were a betting man, my money would be on option #2 given that it will be hard to find anyone among the current GOP crop able to expand the current levels of Latino GOP support. Also, as incumbent, the President can do things (e.g., policy, executive orders, and speeches) that out-of-office opponents cannot do.
In the case of Governor Fortuño, he’s shown trailing by 22% (47-25) against his [hypothetical] rival, Sen. Alejandro García Padilla. Only 50% of the governor’s NPP sympathizers claim they would vote for him. Yet, partisanship is strong in Puerto Rico. If the question were asked in November 2012, Fortuño’s support among his own will likely be much higher and his opponent’s overall support much lower because that’s what campaigns do: they put dents in a shiny armor.
Remember, while experts may be trying to predict the future and the current numbers don’t look good on paper, the games still have to be played. If Obama and Fortuño can deliver for their core constituents in the next 18 months, they have a significant shot of getting re-elected. As incumbents, they have the tools and they won’t be afraid of using them.
Do you already know who you are voting for in 2012?
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.