White House Cheat Sheet: Obama Beloved, Policies Be-Liked
President Obama enters his second 100 days in office riding a wave of likability but potentially plagued by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the policies he has put in place.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll paints this chasm in sharp relief; 51 percent of Americans both like Obama personally and approve of his policies while 30 percent like him personally but disapprove of his policies.
On the one hand, more than eight in ten Americans feel warmly toward Obama, suggesting he has a deep reservoir of personal likability and will continue to tap it in order to sell his agenda to the country.
On the other, the fact that three in ten like Obama but dislike his policies could well portend a much more difficult political environment for the president over the next 100 days than he dealt with in the first 100 days.
How big an issue is the chasm between Obama's personal favorability and the approval of his policies?
"It poses a significant challenge for Obama to turn the 'hope' voters have for his success into 'results,'" explained Republican pollster Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies. "The more stark the gap between those two, the more his programs are at risk."
Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster who handled survey research for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign said that the data is a reflection that "people are comfortable with Obama's leadership style but remain uncertain about his policies, especially the potential deficits."
Republicans have gone hard after the idea that all of Obama's spending in the first 100 days will come home to roost at some point in the not-too-distant future, and there is some evidence that the American public remains concerned about government spending too much, too fast.
In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, nearly nine in ten Americans (87 percent) said they were either "very" (59 percent) or "somewhat" (27 percent) concerned about the size of the federal budget deficit -- numbers that have held steady in Post polling since December 2008.
Asked in the NBC/WSJ poll whether the budget deficit was a "real and important number" with a direct effect on the average citizen or a "bookkeeping and governmental number" with little impact, 68 percent agreed with the former statement and 27 percent with the latter.
Obama and his senior aides are well aware of the dangers inherent in the massive government spending they have instituted in response the economic crisis gripping the country.
It's why Obama regularly speaks of "bending the curve" on spending once the economic crisis passes, why he asked his Cabinet to cut $100 million from their combined budgets, and why he devoted the whole of last weekend's radio/You Tube address to touting the need for fiscal discipline.
"The cost of confronting our economic crisis is high," acknowledged Obama. "But we can't settle for a future of rising deficits and debt that our children can't pay."
(Obama trotted out similar rhetoric during his town hall meeting in Missouri on Wednesday -- and received a smack down from the Associated Press for his trouble.)
What then do the next 100 days hold for Obama?
The American public has "given him the football and they are waiting to see how far he gets down the field and how successful his policies are to decide whether to let him keep going or pull him back," argued Penn.
The key question: Will Obama continue to matriculate the ball down the field or fumble the pigskin?
What To Watch For:
Thursday's Fix Picks: Remember when the Atari 2600 was the coolest thing going?
1. President Obama's budget passes.
2. It may be day 101 of the Obama administration but the Scott Wilson's 100 days piece is still terrific.
3. Things aren't getting better for Jack Murtha.
4. Lincoln Chafee's in the Rhode Island governor's race. Or not.
5. Fix snubbed -- again! -- on People's 100 most beautiful people list.
Republicans Form "National Council For a New America": A group of House and Senate Republican leaders -- led by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) but also including Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) and Sen. John Thune (S.D.) among others -- are forming a group aimed at re-branding the Republican party through a series of town hall meetings and other policy-driven activities. "The goal is to have a national conversation where we use Republican principles as a prism to ask people how best to handle the challenges and opportunities facing them," explained Rob Collins, Cantor's chief of staff. The group, which is known as the National Council For A New America, is holding its first event this Saturday in northern Virginia -- featuring former Govs. Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Mitt Romney (Mass.). Other prominent Republicans likely to be involved in future events include Govs. Bobby Jindal (La.) and Haley Barbour (Miss.). The formation of the National Council is best understood as a recognition by the establishment wing of the party that without a significant re-branding between now and 2012, President Obama will walk to re-election. Whether anything real comes out of these efforts remains to be seen but they are a step in the right direction.
2012 Like It's Tomorrow: The party switch by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) evoked widely divergent reactions from the Republican politicians mentioned as potential 2012 candidates. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford strongly condemned the move, telling the Fix: "The real news would be if he had announced he was now going to act like a Republican.... It's this kind of soulless pragmatism that turns people off to politics and helps perpetuate a ruling class more loyal to themselves than to the people who elected them." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) called the move an act of "personal survival," adding: "This defection will make the 2010 and 2012 elections an even clearer choice of two directions for America." Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was far more measured; "Mitt Romney's PAC will be working to elect a Republican to that seat in 2010," said spokesman Eric Fehnstrom. Neither Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Minn) nor Gov. Bobby Jindal offered any formal statement on Specter's move. The reaction to the Specter switch is indicative of the broader divide within the party between conservative true believers (Sanford, Gingrich) and the more pragmatic, mainstream candidates (Romney, Pawlenty). It's a fight that will continue to manifest itself in a variety of ways in the run up to the 2012 nomination fight.
Bayh in Strong Shape in 2010: A new poll conducted by Dave Beattie (of Hamilton Campaigns) for Sen. Evan Bayh suggests little reason for concern as the Indiana Democrat looks toward a race for third term in 2010. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Indiana voters see Bayh in a favorable light while just 23 percent view him unfavorably. Bayh's favorability ratings are high across party lines with 74 percent of Independents and 61 percent of Republicans viewing him in a positive light. Republicans made some noise about challenging Bayh earlier this year but that talk has largely faded amid glowing poll numbers (like these) and the Democratic incumbent's massive campaign warchest ($11.4 million on hand at the end of March). The only Republican who might give Bayh a serious race is Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and he has already pledged not to run again for public office. (Worth noting: the poll also showed very strong numbers for President Obama -- 61 percent of Indiana voters had a favorable opinion of him as compared to 38 percent who felt unfavorably.)
Thune, Olsen Hoop It Up: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Texas Rep. Pete Olsen held a fundraiser last night at the L.A. Sports Club in Washington. Yes, you read that right. The event was in the form of a basketball game between "Team Thune" and "Team Olsen" with the proceeds benefiting the Texas freshman Republican. (Thune doesn't really need the money; he had $4.4 million in the bank at the end of last month.) Thune is a renowned hoopster, having played for the Biblical Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) in his college days and standing 6'5". Olsen is no slouch himself, having played for a year on Rice University's basketball team.
Van Hollen Warns Members on Complacency: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen issued a warning to his caucus this week in the form of a memo noting the long historical odds the party faces in 2010. "History shows that we can do everything right and still lose seats," wrote Van Hollen in a document distributed to the Democratic caucus, adding that only twice since Abraham Lincoln's victory has the president's party picked up seats in the first midterm election. Van Hollen also took note of Republicans' current cash position (+$23 million net as compared to Democrats' -$5.5 million) and asserts that "it is clear that the Republicans will have the resources they need to compete." He added -- continuing a theme from the 2008 election -- that Republican interest groups are certain to spend heavily on races next November. Reading this memo might make one think that Democrats are on the verge of losing their hold on the majority in 2010; the truth is quite different but Van Hollen knows the road from majority to minority status is a slippery slope.
Say What?: "We got rid of some dead weight." -- Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh on Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) party switch.
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