Obama’s First Year By The Numbers

Mark Knoller of CBS News has looked at some numbers to regarding Barack Obama’s first year in office. Obama gave twice as many news conferences (42) as George Bush (21). This included four in prime time by Obama and only one in prime time by Bush.

Obama gave 158 interviews which is described as more than his recent predecessors but actual numbers for previous presidents were not given:

This is a striking number of interviews and far more than any of his recent predecessors in their first year. Ninety of the sessions were TV interviews. Eleven were radio. The rest were newspaper and magazine. The number reflects the White House media strategy that Mr. Obama can best respond to questions in an interview setting.

George Bush did beat Barack Obama in some categories. Obama had 74 meetings with foreign leaders while Bush had 115 meetings. (The numbers include meeting with the same leader on more than one occasion). Obama made 11 visits including all or part of 27 days to Camp David while Bush made 26 visits his first year including all or part of 81 days. Of course nobody comes close to George Bush in days spent on vacation. Obama spent all or part of 26 days over 4 trips his first year while Bush spent 69 days at his Texas ranch during 9 trips.

The report does not compare successful terrorist attacks on American soil during the first year of each of their watches.

Republican Pollster Found Massachusetts Results Not A Repudiation Of Obama’s Overall Agenda

Greg Sargent quotes a Republican pollster who reports that his exit polls show Brown’s victory as representing opposition to health care reform but not to Barack Obama’s overall agenda:

I just talked to GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio, who did that exit poll on the Massachusetts race I reported on below, and he confirmed my interpretation: It’s a reach to see the outcome as a wholesale repudiation of Obama and his overall policies and agenda.

That seems a bit at odds with what many Republicans and pundits have argued today — that the results last night amounted to a referendum on Obama’s whole presidency.

As I noted below, Fabrizio’s exit polling showed that Scott Brown’s opposition to health care reform was a strong driver of the pro-Brown vote, confirming that health care was indeed a major factor in the election.

But the poll also found that only 38% said their vote was motivated by opposition to Obama’s overall policies and the direction he’s taking the country. Meanwhile, 59% said they were motivated by support for his policies or that they weren’t a factor. Obama’s approval checked in at at 55%, too.

Fabrizio said the results show that the outcome was a major repudiation of the health care plan — but not of Obama’s presidency.

“Given Obama’s image numbers and his job approval, and the fact that voters were basically split on his poliicies and direction he wants to take the country, this was more a vote to repudiate health care plan than a vote to repudiate Obama overall,” Fabrizio said.

Fabrizio added that given that this was Massachusetts, it would have been “seismic” if voters had “rejected Obama’s overall policies as strongly as they rejected his health care plan.”

Concluded Fabrizio: “It did not happen.”

There is an additional wrinkle in viewing the vote as a repudiation of health care reform considering that Massachusetts already has a similar plan. It has been the case throughout the debate that those who do not need the coverage (such as those already covered by Medicare) are least likely to be pushing for any changes.

The Meaning of Massachusetts

It seems that everyone has an immediate opinion as to what the Massachusetts Senate results mean. Everyone is interpreting the Massachusetts results as a wake up call but different people are taking different lessons from it. Is anyone advocating anything different today in response to the results than they were before the loss?

Many on the left are saying this means that Obama should move further to the left. Peter Daou says the lesson is that the Obama administration should pay more attention to bloggers. Moderate Democrats such as Evan Bayh say the lesson is that the party should be more moderate. Conservative politicians and pundits argue this shows the Democrats are too far to the left. In other words, everyone seems to be saying the lesson of the election is exactly what they have been saying all along.

While there is obviously no one answer, I think the problem comes down more to being able to put out a coherent message and find a way to get voters to vote based upon the actual facts, not what is being said on Fox and right wing talk radio. Neither the moderates nor the more liberal Democrats stand a chance when people think that a centrist administration such as Obama’s borders on Marxism.

Beyond this we need more time to analyze the results to really say whether a more liberal or moderate message would win. So far analysis of polls do show that lack of enthusiasm among progressive voters did hurt Coakley.  Health care was a factor, but partially because some voters didn’t think that the health care legislation goes far enough. Obama says that voter anger and frustration were factors.

All is not lost even if Republicans now have a 41-59 “working majority” in the Senate. Democrats still hold the House and White House. What happens in November will depend largely upon what they do with it (and how the economy does as most voters have too short a memory to remember who wrecked the economy).

Placing Blame For Coakley’s Loss

When something which would have been unthinkable a month ago and Massachusetts elects a Republican to to Ted Kennedy’s old seat there are bound to be multiple reasons. Nate Silver tried to break it down, explaining the 31 point swing between Obama’s 26 point victory last year and Coakley’s five point loss. Silver crunched the numbers to attribute the 31 point swing to national environment 13, Coakley 14,  and special circumstances 4. It took a combination of both national factors and the problems with Coakley’s campaign for her to lose:

If you follow through on the math, this would suggest that Coakley would have won by about 8 points, rather than losing by 5, had the national environment not deteriorated so significantly for Democrats. It suggests that the Democrats would have won by 9 points, rather than losing by 5, had the candidate been someone other than Coakley. And it suggests that the race would have been a 1-point loss (that is, basically too close to call), rather than a 5-point loss, even if Coakley had run such a bad campaign and even if the national environment had deteriorated as much as it has, but had there not been the unusual circumstances associated with this particular election.