A new CNN poll, asking Americans about their “perfect” candidate in 2016, is a bitter prelude to Obama’s presidential legacy. By strong majorities, Americans want a political leader with lots of experience who will reverse Obama’s policies.
Barack Obama first registered on the national political scene a scant four years before he was elected President. His entry into the national political arena was precipitated by a speech to the Democrat National Convention in 2004, when he was a state Senator and candidate for the US Senate. Rather than an event or singular accomplishment, his political fortunes were forged in words.
According to the CNN poll, 59% of Americans would prefer Obama’s successor to be a seasoned political leader who has been on the national scene, and in the public eye, for many years rather than a newcomer. An equally strong majority would prefer the next President to have executive experience, either in government or business, rather than a legislator.
Reversing the Obama years isn’t confined to just a different presidential biography, though. Almost 60% of voters, 57%, want the next president to reverse most of Obama’s policies. It is important to note that voters weren’t asked about any specific policies they wanted reversed. Far more troubling for Obama’s thoughts about his legacy, voters simply generally want to scrap his policies. In other words, their default position is that, from a national policy perspective, the Obama years ought to be simply erased.
Obama rode into the White House on a torrent of words, with no experience in executive decision-making and even a very thin resume as a legislator. His brief time in federal office was marked by more words, rather than a leading role on any policy issue.
Words are ephemeral. Even soaring rhetoric is subject to the gravity of economic and foreign policy challenges. Where Obama did impart policy changes, voters would rather forget, reverse course, and move on.
More importantly, voters want to look deeper behind the words for the next President. They want to make sure there is something there, there.