So I'm having a beer with a friend who spent years working in the law enforcement side for the feds. He retired at the ripe young age of 52 and started a private security firm. In our current paranoid culture, business is good.
But his take on President Barack Obama is bad.
"What's he done for the small businessman?" he asks. "And what's he done for the brothers? Might as well have had a white dude in the White House."
"I'm voting for Romney," he said. Harsher.
A few days later, I hopped in a taxi. When the cabby finished complaining about the new regulations for the taxi industry, he lit into Obama. "I'm from Kenya," he said. "I can't figure out where Obama finds his roots. My father is Kenyan, too. But now I have my citizenship, and I am an American."
"C'mon," I said, "Obama was born in Hawaii. He's an American, pure and simple."
"I sense confusion," the cabby said.
Then I stopped by a cocktail party in Upper Northwest, the lair of D.C.'s white liberal elite. A public interest lawyer was holding forth about Afghanistan. "What a losing proposition," he said. "Obama took six months to figure out whether to send troops, sent them, too many were killed, now he's bringing them back. And Afghanistan is still a mess."
I asked if he was going to vote for Obama in November.
"Probably," he said, "But I am not nearly as committed or excited as I was four years ago. Don't tell my wife, but I could vote for Romney."
A few conversations don't make a poll, let alone a sense of how the presidential election might swing in D.C. In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 9-1, the chances that a Republican nominee can outpoll a Democrat are slim to none. But I'm going to stick my neck out and predict that Obama does not win D.C. by the ridiculous margin of 93 percent that he racked up in 2008. What if he drops 20 percentage points and wins 70-30? Many would consider that a loss, in relative terms.
President Obama has given District voters many reasons not to punch his ticket. His support for D.C. voting rights in Congress has been wishy-washy, at best. In budget negotiations, he glibly traded the D.C. chip. "John," he reportedly told House Speaker John Boehner, "I'll give you D.C. abortion." And with that, D.C. lost its right to fund abortions for low-income women. He only occasionally shows up at our churches. You are more likely to see him and first lady Michelle Obama at a swank restaurant. The Obamas have used our schools as a backdrop for initiatives on reading and such. That's a page out of Laura Bush's book.
Overall, President Obama has appealed neither to our blackness nor our liberal proclivities. He certainly will not campaign in the District. Why should he? He's bound to win, so he takes D.C. for granted.
That could be the best reason not to vote for him.
Harry Jaffe's column appears on Wednesday. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.