That conclusion comes from a recent day spent interviewing voters and some non-voters in suburban Arapahoe County just east of Denver. Those conversations highlighted three current realities ahead of the coming presidential race.
First, voters of all stripes are more disgusted with what they see and hear from Washington than they have been in a long time. Second, the president’s performance has been a disappointment even to many of his 2008 supporters, and some doubt that he will be reelected. Third, no one in the Republican field has captured anyone’s imagination. Republicans are far from making a sale.
Anger with politics in Washington is palpable, erupting with great force when people are asked about the state of the nation or recent efforts to deal with the country’s problems. People see and feel an economy that is still inflicting pain on them or their families or their friends three years after the collapse in 2008. In the face of those problems, they see only bickering and gridlock in Washington, not leadership.
“The Democrats go down one road and the Republicans go down another, and those roads don’t meet,” said John Elam, a retired pharmacist. Without missing a beat, his wife, Evelyn, a retired teacher, jumped in to say, “And if there’s a bridge between them, they’ll burn it.”
“The situation in Washington is so bad because they won’t do anything to fix it,” said Mike Albi, a retired electrician, referring to the politicians. “They won’t get away from politics and do their job. People are angry and frustrated and have no focal point. . . . You think the Arab Spring can’t happen here? Think again. You push people far enough and they’ll revolt.”
Tom Brown, who leads tour groups abroad, pointed to the Occupy Wall Street protests that have sprung up in many cities. “It’s kind of like a volcanic gurgle,” he said. “The mountain hasn’t exploded, but it’s rumbling.”
The day before last week’s Republican debate in Las Vegas, Project New West, a Democratic group, held a conference that included a panel of Western strategists. They were surprisingly optimistic about Obama’s prospects for winning the Rocky Mountain region next year — especially given the comments from voters I spoke with a few days earlier.
Obama brought the 2008 convention to Denver to stake a claim in the West, and it worked. He won Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, three states that had gone Republican in 2004, on his way to victory. Today, however, much of the enthusiasm he generated in the region has largely disappeared.
The Elams both voted for Obama in 2008, although John was a more reluctant supporter than was Evelyn. They believe no president in modern times has faced more crises than Obama and are sympathetic to him because of that. But when asked about the president’s prospects next year, Evelyn said, “I don’t think he will be reelected . . . because everybody blames him for all the problems.” John Elam said, “Whether he deserves it or not, he probably won’t be reelected.”