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The Flip-flopping Flap

The flap over Barack Obama's recent public statements about his policy positions on Iraq and the FISA bill have led many to wonder whether the Illinois senator will be able to hold on to liberal Democrats he won over in the primaries while also wooing the independents and moderates who could put him over the top in the general.

But liberal Democrats have historically been a pretty steadfast group, and there is little evidence that pattern is likely to change this year. Network exit polling first measured presidential vote by ideological views in 1980, when liberal Democrats went 73 percent for Jimmy Carter, 14 percent Reagan and 12 percent for the independent, John Anderson. And they have been even more solidly Democratic in their voting since then, often by margins of better than 15 to 1.

John Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004, faced similar flip-flopping charges after famously telling a West Virginia audience that "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it." Despite the Bush campaign's emphasis on this waffle and others, liberal Democrats stayed in Kerry's corner.

In an August 2004 Washington Post-ABC News poll, liberal Democrats were twice as likely as voters overall to say Kerry was more apt than Bush to take a position and stick to it. The networks' election day exit poll found just 18 percent of liberal Democrats thought Kerry would "say what he thinks people want to hear," (56 percent of all voters said the same) and 95 percent voted for him.

So far, Obama has corralled about the same proportion of liberal Democrats into his camp as had Kerry at this time in the campaign. In the latest Post-ABC News poll, 86 percent supported Obama, while 85 percent backed Kerry in June of 2004. But that figure lags a bit behind McCain's support from conservative Republicans, 94 percent of whom backed the Arizona senator in the June Post-ABC poll.

Positive impressions of Obama among liberal Democrats have rebounded to 89 percent favorable since a mid-primary dip in April, with strongly favorable views now more prevalent (67 percent) than they were at the outset of voting in January (58 percent).

UPDATE: Reader MLW makes this fair point:

the affect of disappointing your base is not that they vote for the other guy, it is that they stay home. The polls cited cannot measure that."

Polls do offer some clues that accusations of flip-flopping had limited impact on John Kerry in 2004. In an August 2004 Post-ABC poll taken shortly after the Democratic convention, about 14 percent of likely voters were liberal Democrats, about the same as in network exit polls from 2000 (13 percent). That number remained steady throughout September - even though Kerry's favorability among the group dipped to 66 percent from 92 percent in August - and held through tracking polls conducted over the final 31 days of the campaign. Liberal Democrats accounted for 14 percent of all voters according to the 2004 exit poll, suggesting that Kerry's problems overcoming the flip-flopping accusation (and others) did not drive his core supporters away.

Among Liberal Democrats

General election vote


Obama Favorability


By Jennifer Agiesta  |  July 10, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Post Polls  
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Thanks for posting. GOPs should stop calling Senator Obama a flip-flopper. He does not have any "one" side to flip.

The more you call or label him, the more it will be backfired to you.

Focus on "the" Issues--not on "an" issue.

Posted by: Premier | July 10, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Why does your newspaper insist on asserting that Obama has flipped flopped on Iraq when the evidence is clear to the contrary.

Here is Obama in front of AIPAC on June 4th, 2008:

I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in.

Here is Obama in January 2008:

OBAMA: John, what I have said, and I've said repeatedly, is I want to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, but I want to make sure that we get all our combat troops out as quickly as we can safely.

Here is Obama from September 2007:

"We should enter into talks with the Iraqi government to discuss the process of our drawdown. We must get out strategically and carefully, removing troops from secure areas first, and keeping troops in more volatile areas until later. But our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month. If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year."

To say that he is "refining" his position in no way contradicts what he has been saying for several years now and is just idiocy.

What part of "I want to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in..." do people NOT understand?

On the other hand, McCain has gone from "We will be in Iraq for a hundred years" to "We will use the savings we generate from our victory in Iraq (???) to reduce the deficit".

That sounds like a HUGE flip flop to me, implying that sometime during his administration, we are not going to be spending money in Iraq which means that McCain is proposing a troop withdrawl which contradicts McCain's stance that we need troops "to reinforce our gains" (whatever that means).

Posted by: jberezo | July 10, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

This analysis misses two points. First, the affect of disappointing your base is not that they vote for the other guy, it is that they stay home. The polls cited cannot measure that. Secondly, the real affect of flip-flopping charges is it makes centrist undecideds doubt the candidate. "If he turns his back on his base, why should I trust him?" It also makes them wonder if this is an election pander that will never be implemented. Either way, the charge is effective because it moves swing votes.

Posted by: MLW | July 10, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Its hard to call Obama a flip-flopper on most issues because he hardly ever takes a firm position. On Iraq he's said that we'll get the troops out, but has also softened that by saying we'd take our time, we might go back in if there's trouble, etc. So now he can say his position is consistent, when in fact there's no position at all, just a vague "we need to get out pretty soon".

He did flip flop on FISA and I am holding his feet to the fire on that one. Not one vote or one dime from me for him or the Democrats in this election cycle.

Posted by: Tristan | July 10, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

This item calls Kerry's position on military funding a "waffle." In fact, Kerry supported one version of a bill. He changed his position when the legislation changed.

That is not a waffle. Period.

This charge was central, and possibly decisive, in the last presidential campaign. It's important, but not complicated. The Post should describe it accurately.

Posted by: rodeoclown | July 10, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

So tell me which side did "Flip Flop Waffle" Liar in Chief Wannabe Marxist Socialist Democrat Liberal Loser Comrade
Barack Hussein Obama say he is taking so
far today? Anyone wanna bet Obama will tske
the other side of it all by lunchtime?

Posted by: Sherry Kay | July 10, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Barack Hussein is confused and has no legs to stand on....

Barack Shifty has no substance or clear ideas how to deal with all the problems our country is facing. Shifty is a good orator but has no experience or real knowledge about the real world....

Shifty Hussein will say or do, whatever he has to say or do, to gain control of the government of The United States of America and fulfill his dream of gaining supremacy over whites. Barack and his congregation of America haters, lead by Jeremiah Wright want to destroy our country and change it to match their dream of black supremacy.

Barack Shifty Hussein is just another power hungry politician playing the political game to gain power and then share the power with his radical extremists and black supremacists brothers to destroy America and the american values we love.

Americans that love our country need to come together and fight against the radical extremists and black supremacists that are threatening the country we've always been proud of.

Americans that love our country need to vote for John McCain, a true patriot.

Posted by: Manolete | July 10, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Re: Ms. Sherry Kay

I suppose name calling is the best you can do if you can't make a coherent point.

Posted by: ernesto | July 10, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Well, Kerry may have held onto his base, but he lost the election.

Posted by: djudge | July 10, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Its disturbing to be reminded that racism is still very much alive in some folks in this great country, and how lies and fear feed on each other to perpetuate this curse. It is remarkable to me how this man can evoke such a level of anger and hatred. Perhaps when he is elected President, and the earth does not open up and swallow us all, folks will revisit their attitudes. Maybe just a pipe dream....

Posted by: Tm | July 10, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Well, Obama lost the vote of THIS life-long Democrat. I won't vote for McCain, nor will I stay home; I've never failed to vote in my life.

But I've finally been pushed to the point where I'll give my vote to a third-party candidate. And instead of contributing to Obama or the DNC, I'll give that money to the FISA money-bomb.

Posted by: Peter Maranci | July 10, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"That sounds like a HUGE flip flop to me.."

So that leaves your comment off limits to me, since it makes no sense at all.

Posted by: Gary E. Masters | July 10, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I think, when you report this story on Obama flips you should report what he actually said in prior campaign speaches...then show McCains flip-flop of a life when he ran his 2000 campaign (when I voted for him in the primary) and now. Or from earlier in this campaign and now. I am disgusted by his embrace of McCain's flip and the flop.

Posted by: lodilynn | July 10, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I think that it is quite interesting that the only argument the Republicans (John McCain) really have in this election is to try to label and bring down Obama. What are John McCain's positions? What is he about? He's flip-flopped on Immigration (when he started the campaign I might add- to court his base). He even says that he wouldn't vote for his own bill. I'm not sure what he's going to say now that the Iraqi's elected government says that they are ready for a planned withdrawal on "Barack's good judgement timeframe". He's running a negative campaign focusing on Barack more than his outdated and unpopular positions even when he promised he wouldn't do so. Do you remember the outlash against McCain from his base when he became the nominee? Where is it now? He's been kissing up, that's what happened. As for Barack, one of the main reasons I'm supporting him is that he is NOT an idealogue. I've had enough of them...blaming each other for staunch extreme positions. Nothing gets done! So, I don't like compromise either. I love to get my own way but that is not how our government is supposed to work, that's why it isn't working now. Do you really want another extreme ideologue in the White House who can't work with other people and can't admit when he's gone too far in some direction?
Which brings up another issue. I voted for John McCain in 2000. I liked his campaign finance reform ideas - until his bills didn't prove to solve anything. I thought he had the wherewithall to stand up to others and really straight talk. However, all he's seemed to do is convince me that he is contentious at heart. He has a lot of difficulty getting along with anyone. Look at the shake ups in his campaign. (and others are coming). He's poked his finger in the eyes of his fellow Republicans and the democrats consistently his whole political career. I don't call that straight talk. I call it arrogance and aggresion. Particularly with his flip-flopping now on everything but his staunch foreign policy positions (By the way, don't you think he seems like he is running for some foreign ambassador position rather than President of the United States.) Could he stay here for awhile and campaign. Oh, I forgot- he's only running on is foreign policy and trying to bring down Barack.

Posted by: Lisa T | July 10, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: 761-091 | July 10, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

None of this piffle matters. We all know that Obama, like every other politician will say what he needs to say in order to get votes. Unlike other politicans however he has the ability to convice, normally skeptical, thoughtful, rational, people that he is not a politician. The media and the masses are in love with him. He has turned himself into something far more powerful than a candidate. He is a of that more adored caste, a Celebrity. People fall over and faint when they touch the hem of jacket. He has been diefied and there is no way he will fall from the lofty perch upon which we've placed him. No matter what he says or does that distances himself from the left wing of my party they will embrace him. He could be found in bed with Ann Coulter tomorrow and they would say it's all a consiracy to bring the great man down.
Early prediciton: Obama wins 501 electoral college votes to McCains 37.

Posted by: markp88 | July 10, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

We are wasting precious time with this flip-flopper named Obama. He will be on whichever side he's told to be at.
Let's be decisive and get another candidate in in his stead before the Democrats lose again another election.

Posted by: Jack305 | July 10, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

It's too much for the narrowminded to consider that an intelligent person can change his mind, or that circumstances can change to lead someone to reconsider and even change his mind on an issue. It's much easier and childishly satisfying to start namecalling or chanting inane phrases like flip-flop. Go suck a lollipop!

Posted by: JoeS | July 10, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

VOTER: Mr. Obama what are you actually going to do if elected president?

MESSIAH: "Well if we all hope for change, and hope for hope, we can be our own best hope for change, and when we hope and hope and change for hope, then we can change the world with hope and change."

VOTER: Um.... okay so what are you going to change?

MESSIAH: "Well the culture of hope and change will change the change, and become the hope of the people's change. If we just hope for hope and change for change, then we can change the world with hope and change.

VOTER: Listen man, what SPECIFICALLY are you going to DO? For that matter, what SPECIFICALLY have you DONE?

MESSIAH: "That's a good question, when I hoped for change, back when hope was not hope, and change was not change, then I hoped for hope and wrote a book about hope, now I get people to hope for hope and change for change so that we can change the change and really change, and the world will change, if we become our best hope, and hope the hope that can best be hoped..."

VOTER: Check please...

Posted by: Tony V | July 10, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

The left was unaffected by Kerry's "flipflops" because (1) they were trumped up by Bush's campaign and (2) they did not involve any backtracking a betrayal on a liberal principle.

This is very different from Obama's clear flip-flop on FISA. He will lose liberal support on this and on the sort of fancy footwork he's likely to engage in regarding Iraq.

Bottom line: Kerry wasn't really a flip-flopper; Obama is.

Posted by: susie | July 10, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Love your dialouge, tony. You definitely hit on the one thing that my main man Obama has going for him. People really think he is the Messiah. As someone who works in the "image creating" business. I applaud him for so seamlessly knitting together politics and religion, with the object of veneration being himself. And that is precisly why he will win, in a landslide. Those who have been seduced by his swagger don't like him, they don't respect him, the worship & adore him. I can't believe how many really smart people just put their brains in auto pilot when he works a crowd.
From a selfish point of view that's great, people like me the, demon insiders, of washington politics will grow very rich during an Obama administration. Can't wait!

Posted by: markp88 | July 10, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

So what is so complicated about the fact that pathological liar "Typical Grandiose
Cocaine Addict" Barack Hussein Obama is
an out of touch with reality and out of
touch with the majority of the American
people,Marxist Looney Toons now then?
So want proof how about Obama demanding
we teach our kids and we speech Spanish?
After all America is an English Speaking
Country or how about Obama claims he is
smarter then all our Generals and Admirals
when it comes to military tactics,while the
Truth is Barack Hussein Obama never served
one day in the US Military and our Military
doesnot let known Cocaine Addicts and Drug
Pushers like Obama in it! Say No Obama!

Posted by: Sandy5274 | July 10, 2008 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Flip-flopping is not the issue. Honesty is. And, Obama is a dishonest politician. Issues aside, he will tell whatever audience he's in front of whatever he thinks that they want to hear so that he can get either their money or their votes. And, he will pander to whatever demographic group he's after. If it's Latinos, then tell them that all Americans should learn Spanish. If it's rich San Francisco folks, then talk to them about those ignorant white working class folks that cling to their guns and religion. And so on and so ... Obama has no moral compass when it comes to politics, leadership or knowing right from wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 10, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

From what terrible malady does Sherry Kay suffer?

Posted by: orray | July 10, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

This post misses the point completely. Flip-flopping hurt Kerry with the middle not the base. Independent voters didn't vote for Kerry because they couldn't trust him. Right now Obama is leading among indie but he is putting himself in the same position Kerry did and this could cost him in Nov.

Posted by: mountain man | July 10, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

1 - Student pilot McCain III lost jet number one in 1958 when he plunged into Corpus

Christi Bay while practicing landings.

2 - Pilot McCain III lost another plane two years later while he was deployed in the

Mediterranean. "Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula, he took out some power lines

which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the

son of an admiral.

3 - Pilot McCain III lost number three in 1965 when he was returning from flying a Navy

trainer solo to Philadelphia for an Army-Navy football game. McCain III radioed, "I've got

a flameout" and ejected at one thousand feet. The plane crashed to the ground and

McCain III floated to a deserted beach.

In 1970, McCain III agreed to an interview with Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist

who was living in Cuba at the time.

The meeting between Barral and McCain III (which was photographed by the Vietnamese)

took place away from the prison at the office of the Committee for Foreign Cultural Relations in

Hanoi (declassified government document). During the meeting, POW McCain sipped coffee and

ate oranges and cakes with the Cuban.

While talking with Barral, McCain III further seriously violated the military Code of Conduct by

failing to evade answering questions "to the utmost of his ability" when he, according government

documents, helped Barral by answering questions in Spanish, a language McCain had learned in

school. The interview was published in the in January 1970.

According to Fernando Barral, a Cuban psychologist who questioned McCain in January 1970, "McCain was "boastful" during their interview and "without remorse" for any civilian deaths that occurred "when he bombed Hanoi." McCain has a similar recollection, writing in his [autobiography] that he responded, "No, I do not" when Barral asked if he felt remorse." (9)

McCain told [Barral] that he had not been subjected to "physical or moral violence," and "lamented in the interview that 'if I hadn't been shot down, I would have become an admiral at a younger age than my father.'"

"Barral said McCain boasted that he was the best pilot in the Navy and that he wanted to be an astronaut." The Cuban psychologist concluded that McCain was [a] 'psychopath.'" (10)

"He felt superior to the Vietnamese up there in his plane, with all his training," Barral recalled.

McCain Releases Medical Files to Counter 'Whisper Campaign' - New ...- 1:01pm Mr. McCain's war injuries, most of which he suffered in the first moments after ejecting from his aircraft, left his shoulders and right knee badly damaged. ... - 42k

Republican Women Say No To McCain

Full news article here: 6/18/MNS211BBRL.DTL&tsp=1

Short quote from the article: "The challenges facing Sen. Barack Obama as he tries to woo supporters of former rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could pale in comparison with Sen. John McCain's troubles with female voters - if the voices of a growing number of prominent Republican women are any indication. "I cannot see a more counterproductive candidate for women," said Jillian Manus-Salzman, a leading California Republican activist and generous GOP donor in the nation's most populous state, an ATM for presidential campaigns. "I cannot vote for McCain."

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep. Saul Bellow

mcbrainless is aggressive, arrogant ant a consumate liar. He flip-flopped 10 times in one week. He thinks he is still in the military and his career was less than stellar. I want to see ALL 636 pages of his military career. More importantly, hos DD214.

Posted by: Katerina Deligiannis | July 10, 2008 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Here's a great resource for the top flip flops in this race so far:

Posted by: DMWhipp, FL | July 10, 2008 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Flip-flop flip-flop! Is Obama still sticking to 57 States in the USA or his he holding firm?

Posted by: theaz | July 11, 2008 12:07 AM | Report abuse

McCain's flips are many more like gymnastic moves.

Posted by: tanaS | July 11, 2008 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
Oscar Wilde

Experience with McCain 08

Posted by: theaz | July 11, 2008 1:03 AM | Report abuse

This article is a hit piece. The headline is misleading; it led me to think it was about both candidates. And instead of exploring the very real issues behind any of the "flip flops", as I was expecting, it simply explores the effects on Obama's ratings among Democrats. The constant repetition of the word "Liberal" is extremely troubling. It marginalizes Democrats and seems to imply that only part of the party supports Obama. If it had explored Obama's standing among all Democrats it might have had some value, but as written, it makes me wish I could line a birdcage with it.

Posted by: reflection | July 11, 2008 7:30 AM | Report abuse


Obama's impossible road ahead:

Posted by: PacificGatePost | July 11, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

What is called flexibility in more enlightened circles, is called flip-flopping by the uneducated masses.

What is called steadiness by the unenlightened, is actually ideologically rigidity.

If you want rigidity, choose McBush. He, like Bush, will stubbornly persist on a course of action even when the evidence shows you are sinking the country.

Flexibility is a sign of intelligence. Rigidity is a sign of stupidity. McBush is not very intelligent, Obama is superbly intelligent.

The problem with democracy, and the basic reason why it does not work, is that the masses decide. The masses like molds and slogans. They get precisely what they seek. Bush in 04, McBush in 08.

Posted by: Domingo Tavella | July 11, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

The people who are accusing Obama of flip-flopping are supporting McCain who can't remember most of the time what the facts really are and what he stands for. I agree with Tavella that the uneducated idiots that kept Bush in office and now want McCain in office don't even understand what flexibility is. Bush has wasn't bright enough to change his position on anything, and McCain has flip-flopped concerning the war, the economy, and just about everything else. Seems that the racist republican masses are more intent on having another old unmaleable white man in office than they are having someone with an educated thought process regardless of sex, race or religion but as most Republicans they're too chicken to name their racist fears, they are also scared to death of having a truly educated man in office preferring to have idiots like Bush trampling the constitution. Republican=racist/sexist - since they the conservatives want us to believe that to be Republican means you are omipotent and walk with God and nothing could be farther from the truth it's just that Murdock owns the media and is giving them as much free air time as possible, listen to O'Reilly he is indicative of what ALL conservatives really are inflexible belicose and racist.

Posted by: DavidBronx | July 14, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

McLame = Death to the USA!!

Posted by: 1-20-09 | July 15, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that when a man (and in this case BOTH presidential candidates) changes his mind about something or revisits his position it's called "flip-flopping" or being indecisive. But when a woman does it, then it's her "perogative" to change her mind.

Posted by: adell | July 16, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

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