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Good and bad poll numbers for Obama

Joe Scarborough and I were talking about the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll on "Morning Joe" today when he raised a very good point. President Obama's job approval rating is 53 percent, which is the vote he received on Election Day. "The president is right where he should be," he said. Unfortunately, Obama is standing on a shaky platform.

Scarborough's assessment is buttressed by other favorable results for Obama in the poll. The president continues to be held in personal high regard (58 percent) and is viewed as a "strong leader" (63 percent) who "understands the problems" they face (57 percent) and shares their values (55 percent). But when you move away from the man and ask about his policies, the American people are decidedly unhappy. While they blame the Bush administration for the terrible economy (67 percent), but less than half like Obama's stewardship of the economy (47 percent) or his handling of the deficit (56 percent). For good measure, respondents trust neither Democrats (68 percent) nor Republicans (75 percent) to make the right decisions.

E.J. Dionne hits on why there is this dissonance in the polls, why the electorate likes the man but is troubled by what he's doing. "[T]he truth that liberals and Obama must grapple with is that they have failed so far to dent the right's narrative," he writes today. Let me go a step further. It's not enough to discredit the conservatism that Ronald Reagan nurtured into dominance. If Obama and his allies want to dent the right's narrative, they have to devise a coherent, cohesive and concise narrative of their own. They failed to do that in year one. Their political lives depend on them doing it from this day forward.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 18, 2010; 2:56 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Comments

I am encouraged by these poll numbers and the general perception that President Obama is held in fairly high regard and that the lousy economy is inherited, and not all his fault. There is much dissatisfaction out there and much of it is directed at the government or congress in general. This is a durable success of President Reagan and the GOP after repeated hammering of the idea that government is not the solution, that it is the problem. This is the narrative that the Republicans use, not so much to address any particular problems, but rather to discredit many of the functions of government. Thus we have excessive tax cuts, deregulation, and privatization. The narrative says that the free market is the best solver of problems, and assumes that business is best controlled by internal forces and oversight. What do the Democrats have to offer in reply? That things are not going well and are going to get much worse unless we pay higher taxes and forego many benefits and rein in our lifestyles. Gee whiz! Who wants to listen to that narrative. Too many people hear what they want to hear and it is made too easy for them to believe the rosier picture until reality bites them.

Posted by: wilsonjmichael | January 18, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

hahaha. those poll numbers are crap. look at mass.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | January 18, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

"If Obama and his allies want to dent the right's narrative, they have to devise a coherent, cohesive and concise narrative of their own."

Well, I thought of several that would resonate with the Party Base:
-- "Peace, Bread, Land!"
-- "Hell no we won't go!"
-- "Hey Hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today!"
-- "Off the Pigs!"
-- "Cuba Si, Yanqui No"

But maybe that might not go over with everyone... oh what to do what to do...hummmm... HEY I got it:

"You pay for everything..or you die!!"

Posted by: wjc1va | January 18, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

@Wilsonjmichael: I agree. Obama has failed to create a dominate theme, which can counter the many flaws of the Reagan ideology that the GOP, (plus foxnews) is running.

What this theme is? I don't know.

Unfortunately, the GOP is currently using Dick Morris' (see his book entitled New Prince) strategy of saying everything at least three times. Morris writes that it doesn't matter if it is true, if you say it enough America will believe it. Thus the theme of "bad government," "socialism," etc wins out. Obama needs a strong theme to counter this constant fear mongering. (If anyone wants to see fear mongering at its highest watch Becks show on Friday -it will surely be lacking common sense but it will definitely scare his viewers to death.)

I for one see Obama being fine in 2012, and most likely fine by next year. The economy will have turned around, and the GOP will still be left with no platform just simplistic deconstruction of the Dems plans (say no the everything). This plan may pick up seats in 2010, but it won't win a presidential election.

Posted by: grubbsbl | January 18, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

A "narrative" of bipartisan policymaking, consensus on economic recovery, and a willingness to bargain with the opposition might have worked. It's what Obama campaigned on.

Too bad he didn't implement any of that. And we won't be fooled twice.

You're now seeing what happens when you forgo too many campaign promises. No doubt you'll retain your party base but the independents are deserting like rats off a sinking ship. Whether you lose in MA or not, 2010 is not going to be pretty.

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Posted by: dfdhdfhtrhjethgjtyjgf | January 18, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

After many years of trying to figure out why any human being with a brain or a conscience could be a Republican, I think I've come to a reasonable solution. In my solution, the terms "Republican" and "Conservative" are considered interchangeable, thanks to Reagan and those noxious "movement conservatives" who followed in his wake.

I've concluded that one can have either a brain OR a conscience and be a Republican/Conservative, but one cannot have both.

Posted by: djccq | January 18, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

It's a problem of language
When a conservative says "compromise" he means "do it my way." Check out the party of NO! for more details.
When a conservative says "socialist", he means "democratic".
When he says "communist", he means "liberal".
When he says "Constitution". he means "the Republican Platform".
When he says "Founding Father", he means John Birch.

Liberals use the language as it's generally accepted. Conservatives assume the words mean whatever they want them to mean at that moment.
That said, most of American is much smarter than the average conservative, they are discontended that more isn't being done to stimulate job growth and that the Administration has been way too cozy with the moneyed interests that control our Congress. They aren't joining tea parties, however since folks who can remember how vociferously the same people supported creating most of this debt during the Republican administration they find their sudden horror at the cost of their actions little more than silly.
The fact the leadership of the teabaggers now fleeces them like carnival hucksters only adds to the impression that they are loud mouthed idiots.

Posted by: dijetlo | January 18, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

For over six months Obama's party has been fighting among themselves over various health care issues. They completely failed to control costs of insurance and pharmaceuticals. Then on Christmas Eve they gathered together in the Senate chamber and passed a terrible health care bill. Every month the narrative has changed up until the final vote.

The people are sick of health care. It's on TV and the media morning, noon and night. They could have given us something better than what we have now. They failed.

Posted by: alance | January 18, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

"If Obama and his allies want to dent the right's narrative, they have to devise a coherent, cohesive and concise narrative of their own."

Wait a minute..WAIT A MINUTE.. I got it!!! Short, succinct, apt..people everywhere will understand:

-- STAND AND DELIVER!!

Posted by: wjc1va | January 19, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

why cant we comment on EJ'S collumns anymore??

Posted by: waawaazaire | January 19, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse

Rabid parisanship overlooks two things: There are millions of people who voted for "the other party"; and both parties are hopelessly corrupt. As long as we pit Democrat against Republican in an atmosphere of vitriol, we shall never address the basic problem which is that Congress' overriding concern is each member's self-interest, as opposed to the well-being of America.

Posted by: sailhardy | January 19, 2010 6:17 AM | Report abuse

Where is Harmon Killafew when you need him?

Posted by: sailhardy | January 19, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

America is at risk.
Without an affordable health system, american business and people are faced with carrying a huge, unecessary burden.
American business will be competitive again, employment will increase, and the country will be on its way to peaceful growth, if Democrats can stay in control of themselves and congress. No democracy should allow the vote of one man to over-ride the will of the people. Time America became a real democracy - it never will be if the Republicans are allowed to rule from a minority position - which is all they deserve. Get serious America, protect your businesses and your people!

Posted by: damollo0 | January 19, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

How about if the Democrats/Progressives/Liberals/Populists agree that the bottom-line of all policy decisions and our messages reflect values we all share:

(1) We work for and guarantee superior education and health care for all children in our country, and

(2) we support freedom and opportunity for all women.

If we did this, we would have a better country. This must be our message.

Posted by: goodgovernment | January 19, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

How about if the Democrats/Progressives/Liberals/Populists agree that the bottom-line of all policy decisions and our messages reflect values we all share:

(1) We work for and guarantee superior education and health care for all children in our country, and

(2) we support freedom and opportunity for all women.

If we did this, we would have a better country. This must be our message.

Posted by: goodgovernment | January 19, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Obama "has to dent the right's narrative"? Nonsense. Capehart sounds like a typical liberal. Obama has indeed "dented" the right's narrative- with a leftist program the people do not like- more "social planning" and the confiscatory taxes such planning requires. The American people do not like the idea that the federal government will have the power to tell individual Americans to buy insurance. Even if they are told it is for their own good. Totalitarianism begins when the citizenry acceeds to legislation that forces them to do what they had never had to do before - for their own good. Americans value liberty and the right to choose. Liberals restrict the meaning of "the right to choose" to the right to abortion and have lost a sense of what the phrase really means.

Posted by: mhr614 | January 19, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Polls aren't worth the paper they are printed on. I would imagine that the WaPo/ABC News poll was not taken with a valid national distribution but was rather taken in a neighboring if not direct area code. One could claim a valid poll but doubt that in reality any, right or left, are worth much.

Posted by: staterighter | January 19, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

PERFECT:: Have to REPOST!!

It's a problem of the REPUBLICAN Language

When a conservative says
"compromise"
he means
"do it my way."

Check out the party of NO! for more details.

When a conservative says
"socialist",
they mean
"democratic".

When he says
"communist",
he means
"liberal".

When he says
"Constitution"
he means
"the Republican Platform".

When he says
"Founding Father"
, he means
John Birch.

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | January 19, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

This is all about Obama not his children or his wife.
Obama is president. He has two lovely children. He has an intelligent wife and he was elected. HIs accomplishments were nil and they still are. He has broken his word to the American People too many times. He and Pelosi and Reid have embarked on the corruption of Senators and House members using bribery and extortion to get a horrific bill forced down the unwilling throats of a large majority of the country. This alone makes him unfit to be President.

Posted by: mharwick | January 19, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

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