The Teflon on President Barack Obama may be wearing thin as public trust in his ability to deal with the nation’s struggling economy drops and he faces increasing opposition on his often radical policies.
Even members of the President’s own party now question some of his actions as the nation slides deeper and deeper into an economic black hole.
A new poll shows a seven-point drop of public trust in the President’s expensive, and deficit-laden, economic stimulus plan and mounting concerns about his centerpiece public health insurance plan threaten any chance of passage before the August congressional recess.
While public approval of Obama the man remains strong the warning signs suggest the honeymoon is over for the young, inexperienced President and serious political trouble looms.
Some say the bill is coming due and no one can pay it.
Barely half of Americans are now confident that President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus measure will boost the economy, and the rapid rise in optimism about the state of the nation that followed the 2008 election has abated, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Overall, 52 percent now say the stimulus package has succeeded or will succeed in restoring the economy, compared with 59 percent two months ago. The falloff in confidence has been sharpest in the hard-hit Midwest, where fewer than half now see the government spending as succeeding. In April, six in 10 Midwesterners said the federal program had worked or would do so.
The tempered public outlook has not significantly affected Obama’s overall approval rating, which at 65 percent in the new survey outpaces the ratings of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at similar points in their tenures. But new questions about the stimulus package’s effectiveness underscore the stakes for the Obama administration in the months ahead as it pushes for big reforms in health care and energy at the same time it attempts to revive the nation’s flagging economy.
Obama maintains leverage on these issues in part because of the continuing weakness of his opposition. The survey found the favorability ratings of congressional Republicans at their lowest point in more than a decade. Obama also has significant advantages over GOP lawmakers in terms of public trust on dealing with the economy, health care, the deficit and the threat of terrorism, despite broad-based Republican criticism of his early actions on these fronts.
With unemployment projected to continue rising and fears that the big run-up in stock prices since February may have been a temporary trend, fixing the economy remains the most critical issue of Obama’s presidency — and retaining public confidence in his policies is an important element of his recovery strategy.
The shift in public assessments of the stimulus package has clear political ramifications: At the 100-day mark of Obama’s presidency, 63 percent of people in states that were decided by fewer than 10 percentage points in November said the stimulus act had or would boost the economy. Today, in the telephone poll of 1,001 Americans conducted Thursday through Sunday, the number has plummeted to 50 percent in those closely contested states, with nearly as many now saying the stimulus program will not help the national economy.
Across the pond, Tom Baldwin of The Times of London, is more to-the-point:
President Obama is trying to halt a slow descent of his once sky-high political fortunes amid signs that Congress may balk at the price of health care reforms and voters want more him to focus more on cutting federal deficits.
Today he will hold a Rose Garden press conference at the White House where warning lights have flashed in recent days over polls that indicate his long honeymoon with the American public could be nearing its end.
By any measure Mr Obama remains hugely popular, but his approval ratings have slipped over the past three months from the mid-60s to an average of 58.7 per cent. A survey by Rasmussen yesterday found just 54 per cent of voters say he is doing a good job, the lowest proportion since his inauguration.
Although other polling organisations suggest he is doing better than that, they also show a sharp drop in support among independent voters and growing doubts about the Administration’s high-spending policies.
And the news doesn’t get any better on the health care front. The Associated Press reports:
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, a Republican seeking a bipartisan health deal, spoke Sunday of "dialing down" expectations, while one of President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies questioned whether the White House had the votes necessary for a such a costly and comprehensive plan during a recession.
Obama’s proposal to provide health insurance for some 50 million Americans who lack it has become a contentious point for a Democratic-controlled House and Senate struggling to reach a consensus.
Much of the concern came after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the plan would cost $1 trillion over 10 years but cover only about one-third of those now lacking health insurance.
Democrats protested that the estimate overlooked important money-savers to be added later. But Republicans seized on the costly projection and the bill’s half-finished nature, throwing Democratic leaders on the defensive.
Grassley, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said officials would have to rethink their best-case scenario for overhauling the health care system at a relatively low price.
"So we’re in the position of dialing down some of our expectations to get the costs down so that it’s affordable and, most importantly, so that it’s paid for," Grassley said. He added that "we anticipate paying for it through some savings and Medicare, and from some increases in revenue."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she wasn’t certain there were enough votes in the president’s own party to support the proposal.