Reihan Salam writes "My basic take on the political landscape is that President Obama's floor of political support is higher than President Bush's floor" That is true in one sense. Obama's Real Clear Politics job approval average bottomed at around 44% while Bush's went down to the mid 20s (yikes!) But while Bush's floor collapsed, the Republican floor at the presidential level held up pretty well all things considered. McCain was a weak candidate whose campaign was out organized and vastly outspent. He was saddled with an epically unpopular President of his own party and the election was dominated by an economic crisis that left him visibly bewildered and floundering. He still got almost 46% of the vote. I think that is around Obama's floor too - if everything that can go wrong for him does.
If the 2012 elections were held under the labor market conditions of 2010, Obama would probably lose to a competent Republican opponent. If the economy is visibly in better shape than in November 2010 (and the unemployment rate has been dropping - we'll see if the pattern continues), Obama's chances improve regardless of what the Republicans do. He doesn't need to to move very far up from his floor to win.
Salam is probably right that "the Democrats will run a fear-driven campaign, the central premise of which is that conservatives want to strip public workers of protections, radically shrink entitlements, etc., all to protect the interests of the wealthy." He is super right that "the right needs to develop a more effective counter-narrative, centered on the goal of sparking a rising economic tide. But that won't be easy." No, it won't be easy, and I am uncertain that such a narrative aimed at both right-leaning and persuadable audiences will be constructed and widely disseminated prior to November 2012. The sooner the better, but there is also 2014 and 2016 to think about. The reformist right needs a policy agenda and narrative that can fire up conservatives and and win over some currently Democratic-inclined Latino, African-American, and younger voters - and maybe knock that Democratic floor down a few inches.
Yeah, I know, easier said than done. I'm not the guy to do it, but I have some thoughts about a middle and longer term approach to increasing support for right-of-center health care reform among right-leaning and persuadable populations. Maybe later in the week.