Tales from the Trail

Obama plays to disaffected audience but most don’t blame him

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When President Obama reaches the podium for tonight’s State of the Union address, he’ll turn to a TV audience fed up with Washington and its incessant partisan bickering. But guess what: most viewers won’t be blaming him.
    
More than 90 percent of the American public thinks there’s too much partisan infighting and 70 percent say the federal government isn’t working well, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
    
But who’s the culprit? Only 27 percent blame the president. The biggest target of public disaffection are Republicans in Congress — at 48 percent — followed by congressional Democrats at 41 percent.  Conducted Jan. 23-25, the survey of 800 adults has a 3.5 percent margin of error.
    
If the numbers are accurate, Obama’s message may find a fair amount of audience sympathy, particularly for his much-anticipated emphasis on jobs, the economy and curbs on Wall Street’s excesses.
    
Nearly three-quarters say not enough has been done to regulate Wall Street and the banking industry, while 51 percent want more emphasis on economic matters than they’ve seen up to now.
    
In fact, poll respondents are fairly optimistic about Obama’s future, with 54 percent saying he is facing either a short-term setback or no setback at all. There are even signs that his overall job approval rating has begun to edge up.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama)

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Is Obama a party animal? U.S. political trends make it so

The folks at Gallup say Barack Obama is easily the most ‘polarized’ first-year president of the postwar era — and they’re not talking about pre-digital camera snapshots.
    
They mean that Obama, like his immediate predecessors,  is the object of growing partisanship within American public opinion.
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Obama finished his first year in office on Jan. 19 with an 88 percent job approval rating among Democrats but only 23 percent approval among Republicans.
    
That leaves a 65-percentage-point gap between the two partisan lines, eclipsing the previous first-year polarization record of 52 points, held by Democrat Bill Clinton.
    
If Obama’s numbers don’t change, he will exceed Republican George W. Bush as the most polarized of post-World War II presidents. (Over the course of Bush’s presidency, Republicans and Democrats were 61 points apart on average.)
    
But there’s something more afoot than the individual horse races.
    
Gallup says its findings illustrate an upswing in voter partisanship since the time of Republican Ronald Reagan. Before the 1980s, partisan approval gaps ranged from a low of 19 percent for Democrat Lyndon Johnson to a high of 34 percent for Republican Richard Nixon.
    
“Obama — like his immediate predecessor Bush — sought to bring Americans together after periods of heightened political polarization in the United States. But despite their best intentions and efforts, both men’s approval ratings have been characterized by extreme partisanship,” Gallup said.
    
“The way Americans view presidents has clearly changed in recent decades, perhaps owing to the growth in variety, sources and even politicization of news on cable television and the Internet, and the continuing popularity of politically oriented talk radio.”

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Photo Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama)

Another House Democrat not running for re-election in November

One more Democrat retiring who won’t run for re-election in November.

FINANCIAL-REGULATION/HOUSE-PASSAGE(It would be tempting to say they’re dropping like flies, but then the Democrats would point out that some Republicans also won’t seeking re-election).

Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry (no, sounds like, but definitely not the former D.C. mayor) was expected to announce his retirement on Monday, The Washington Post’s blogger Chris Cillizza reports.

He would be the second congressman from Arkansas not to seek re-election, with Democrat Vic Snyder also retiring.

Most Americans want Republican input on healthcare – poll

Most Americans want President Obama and the Democrats to jettison the healthcare bill they almost got together before USA-HEALTHCARE/WELLNESSthis week’s political earthquake in Massachusetts and instead look for something Republicans can support.

That’s according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll which says 55 percent of Americans want work stopped on a House-Senate compromise between Democrats, while 39 percent want the Democrats to press on.

In fact, a sizable minority — 46 percent of the 1,010 adults surveyed — say healthcare reform is important but should not be Obama’s top legislative priority. Nineteen percent say healthcare shouldn’t be a major priority at all.
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The poll was conducted the day after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s dyed-in-the-wool-Democratic-blue Senate seat in Massachusetts. The findings have a 4 percentage point margin of error.

Mindboggling in Massachusetts

The Republicans are coming, the Republicans are coming… to Massachusetts. USA-POLITICS/MASSACHUSETTS

The Senate seat comfortably held by Edward Kennedy for nearly half a century has gone to Republican Scott Brown. 

We can only imagine what the late “Liberal Lion” of the Senate would have thought if he were still alive.

Democrats politely congratulated Brown, who defeated Democrat Martha Coakley, knowing full well that the dynamics have changed. Democrats no longer have a 60-vote filibuster-proof Senate — and that can affect their plans for healthcare reform.

Gallup poll gives Obama some good news on terrorism issue

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings may have slipped in some polling data. But there’s a tiny bit of good news for him on an issue that his Republican critics have been whacking away at for weeks now: terrorism. USA HEALTHCARE/

A USA Today/Gallup poll says public approval for Obama’s handling of terrorism has risen since the Christmas Day bomb attempt, with more Americans than not giving him their approval on a political issue likely to rank high in this year’s congressional election campaign.

The numbers still aren’t great for the president, however. The thumbs up comes from less than half of the public — 49 percent – and those expressing disapproval are close behind at 46 percent. That three-point gap is well within the Jan. 8-10 survey’s 4 percentage point sampling error. Approval is also way down from May, when 55 percent of Americans endorsed his handling of terrorism.

Blago says he’s “blacker than Barack Obama”

Believe it or not, Rod Blagojevich is African-American — and more so than President Barack Obama. At least, that’s what the former Illinois governor tells Esquire magazine in a new interview.
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“It’s such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of (expletive deleted) and phonies, but I was real, man — and am real. This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the (expletive deleted)? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter,” Esquire quotes Blago as saying about the president, without the expletives deleted.

“I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up,” he explains.

Blago is, in fact, a white Democrat who gained prominence for introducing big male hair to the national political arena during a corruption probe that led to his indictment on charges of trying to sell Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. He denies the accusations.

Democrats may face a new challenge: rising conservatism

The Democratic Party’s hopes of retaining control of Congress in November are already reeling from a spate of Senate retirements and the political flap surrounding last month’s failed bomb attack on a Detroit-bound airliner. Now comes a potential new hurdle: growing conservatism among the American public.

Gallup polling data show that conservatives became the biggest potential voting bloc in 2009. Forty percent of Americans called themselves ‘conservative’ last year, compared with 36 percent who said they were ‘moderate’ and 21 percent who described themselves as ‘liberal.’
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The findings, which have an error margin of 1 percentage point, come from an aggregate of 21 separate Gallup and USA Today/Gallup surveys, spanning nearly 22,000 interviews.

Gallup polling data also show that the number of Americans calling themselves moderate has fallen over the past decade, while conservatives and liberals have gained ground.

Republicans savoring election prospects after Democrats drop out

Let the countdown begin.

USA/The 2010 election year has officially started and Republicans can barely contain their glee after two senior Senate Democrats announced they would not run again and a House Democrat switched to the Republican Party.

Right out of the New Year’s gate, Senate Democrats Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said they would not seek re-election in November.

Democrats control the Senate 60-40 which is just enough to overcome procedural hurdles and pass legislation without a single Republican vote. Republicans are expected to pick up seats, but not enough to win back control.

Healthcare critic Lieberman silenced in Senate

USA-HEALTHCARE/Senator Joe Lieberman, who has forced Democrats to jump through hoops on healthcare reform in recent weeks, was effectively told to be quiet and sit down on Thursday.

Comedian turned freshman Senator Al Franken gave the order while presiding over the Senate to a surprised Lieberman.

“I object,” Franken said, denying Lieberman the unanimous consent that he needed for “an additional moment” to complete his floor speech on healthcare.