Bill White deciding to travel to points far from Austin and Dallas while President Barack Obama visits the state today to raise money and speak at the University of Texas presents us with yet another mountain-out-of-a-molehill political story in the long, hot summer of gassy coverage of the governor’s race. A look at Obama’s standing in Texas makes it clear that White would be nuts to share a stage with Obama unless he feels like doing a favor for Gov. Rick Perry’s ad team.
Obama’s approval numbers in the UT/Tribune poll convey the hostile disposition of the Texas electorate toward the Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C., in stark terms. After staying fairly steady (though of course not stellar) in the low 40’s through the first year of his presidency, Obama’s job approval numbers during the spring turned nastier than Don Draper’s marriage during the season two of Mad Men.
Between February and May this year, Obama’s approval ratings dropped from 41 percent to 35 percent. More telling, his strong disapproval ratings jumped from 40 percent to 50 percent — I imagine our poll respondents gritting their teeth and jabbing at their computers as they registered their angry responses. Overall, the gap between Obama’s overall approval-disapproval ratings went from -9 percent to -23 percent. Ouch.
Obama also got the bird from independents: 44 percent strongly disapproved in February, increasing to 54 percent in May. For better or for worse, these independents are a huge target audience for White. While they disapprove of Obama in no uncertain terms, they are also lukewarm on the governor, though the numbers are moving in the opposite direction of the president’s. Perry’s overall disapproval numbers in February and May dropped from 50 percent to 45 percent. Though the trend shows independents easing up on Perry a bit, these independents are still among the few targets of opportunity for White. If they are hostile toward Obama, it makes zero sense to provide the Perry campaign with fresh footage for their YouTube videos and TV spots.
These numbers make White’s decision to continue traveling to the mid-size cities, where he must peel off some Perry support to compete, a no-brainer and about as surprising as our Mad Men lead hitting on a college girl half his age. In the end, White may be about as successful as Draper was with that Berekely co-ed. But there’s no sense being surprised he’s trying.