Pollster Douglas Schoen is out with a warning for President Barack Obama: Supporting Occupy Wall Street could cost you a second-term.
“President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement—and it may cost them the 2012 election,” Schoen said in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
The movement, which has spread beyond New York City over the last month, “reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people—and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform,” he wrote.
Schoen presents what he touts is probably “the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion,” including data that he says demonstrates the fact that the protesters represent “an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence,” and that their common bond is “a deep commitment to left-wing policies.”
The Occupiers are “a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation,” — all reasons that could make the administration’s support for the movement “catastrophic for their party,” he warns.
The Obama administration has indicated an increasing willingness to sympathize with the Occupy Wall Street protesters in recent weeks.
“I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel — that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression … yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place,” Obama said in a news conference earlier this month. “I think people are frustrated, and the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”
On Sunday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest embraced the protestors “99 percent” slogan, saying in a conference call with reporters that the president will make sure “the interests of the 99 percent of Americans are well represented” on his bus tour this week.
As Schoen noted in the op-ed, some Democrats in Congress have also shown support for the demonstrators, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
According to Schoen, Obama risks repeating a mistake made in 1970, when “aligning too closely with the antiwar movement hurt Democrats in the midterm election.”
The president has already made the serious mistake of abandoning independent and swing voters, Schoen said, by focusing solely on pleasing voters who support taxing oil companies and the rich. Rather than supporting “increasingly radical and potentially violent activists,” the pollster suggested that Democrats reach out to the country’s moderates.
Put simply, Democrats need to say they are with voters in the middle who want cooperation, conciliation and lower taxes. And they should work particularly hard to contrast their rhetoric with the extremes advocated by the Occupy Wall Street crowd,” he said.
Schoen was a pollster for former President Bill Clinton, as his tagline on the Journal’s op-ed piece notes, and identifies himself as a Democratic campaign consultant. But his clients have also included non-Democrats, such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a time when he was seeking office as a Republican.
Schoen has previously criticized Obama and even said the president should not seek reelection in 2012.
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