President Obama faces a chilly fallWatching President Obama’s poll numbers slide in recent weeks takes me back to the worst moments of the presidential campaign. I’m not thinking of Obama’s presidential campaign. I’m thinking five years ago to Sen. John Kerry’s losing campaign.
By: Clarence page, The Dickinson Press
Watching President Obama’s poll numbers slide in recent weeks takes me back to the worst moments of the presidential campaign. I’m not thinking of Obama’s presidential campaign. I’m thinking five years ago to Sen. John Kerry’s losing campaign.
And I am wondering, as I did with Kerry, why didn’t Obama see it coming?
An ad campaign by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, backed by some deep-pocket donors, torpedoed Kerry’s strongest personal selling point in the Massachusetts Democrat’s presidential quest, his heroic Vietnam record. By the time he responded to the charges, valuable weeks of momentum were lost.
Obama’s fast-response strategy avoided that sort of trap when the mud came flying against him last year. But what happened to that well-oiled machine when the August protests erupted against his health care proposals at congressional town halls this year?
Where are the excited youngsters who dropped their video games, got off the couch and turned out en masse for Obama last year? Hah! Young folks aren’t turned on by health care. They don’t think they’ll ever get sick.
Instead, lots of us older folks turned out. They included seniors over age 65 who are on Medicare and not likely to be affected by the new proposals. You may remember that seniors also weren’t supposed to be affected by President Bush’s Social Security reform proposals, but that didn’t stop them from turning out in protest. The more speeches Bush gave around the country, the more opposition he faced until the proposal died.
Obama faces a similar predicament as his poll numbers have plummeted from their record-setting highs with record-setting speed. Tuesday the president hit his lowest approval yet during his young term in office — 45 percent of voters in a daily Rasmussen Reports tracking poll said they approve of the president’s performance. Fifty-three percent disapproved.
Although more than four out of five Democrats approve, and the same percentage of Republicans disapprove, Obama’s biggest headache is with self-described independents. Sixty-six percent of them disapprove.
Granted, Rasmussen is just one poll, and daily tracking polls are by nature very changeable. But other major pollsters have found similar trends. Besides, Rasmussen’s poll focuses on “likely voters.” Most others look at a sample of “all adults,” which tends to give Obama a larger percentage, but not of the people who are likely to be deciding his reelection chances.
Why the slide? Let me count the ways:
Economic recovery appears to be happening, but not by much. Wall Street is a leading indicator, but jobs are a lagging indicator. At this rate, economists say, it could be months before we see an upturn in jobs, despite promising news from Wall Street, and no one can say how many months.
His stimulus package? Same problem. Economic experts say it has softened the impact of the recession and begun to create some jobs, but not as many as the economy has lost.
Bad recent news from Afghanistan has caused Obama trouble, especially on his left, as his advisors call for more troops without providing much of an exit strategy.
But Obama’s slide appears to have come mostly because of mixed signals from the White House as to how closely Obama will stick to a public option to compete with private insurers in his final proposals.
His plan also has been hurt by the lack of a clear argument as to what his proposal means for those of us who already have health care. It is heartwarming to hear him argue belatedly that health care is a moral issue. But the biggest motivator in politics is a very practical question: Where’s mine? Sure, our health care system is broken, but Obama needs to answer those nervous swing voters who wonder, as an old Johnnie Taylor tune goes, whether “it’s cheaper to keep her.”
Without strong leadership from the White House, the Senate has been casting about for alternatives to a public option such as a national system of nonprofit co-ops run by the insured instead of the government. But no one is quite sure of what that might look like on a national scale. As Susan Dentzer, editor of the Health Affairs journal, recently put it, “The main definition of a co-op at the moment seems to be that it’s not a public plan and it’s not private health insurance. It’s a Goldilocks — ‘something in-between.’”
Obama continues to display his famous cool, but a raucous autumn lies ahead. It’s not hard to see that coming.
— E-mail Page at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.