Tales from the Trail

Obama focus on policy, not polls – White House

The White House is downplaying several new polls showing President Obama’s job approval ratings plunging to new lows along with rising public concern over high unemployment and the sluggish economy.

“The president is focused on the measures he can take…  to address the urgent need to grow our economy and create jobs; to deal with the fact that economic growth is not fast enough and that job creation is not substantial enough,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at Tuesday’s press briefing when asked how concerned Obama is about the poll numbers.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama’s overall job approval rating at a low of 44 percent, down 3 percentage points since July.  More than half of Americans  now disapprove of Obama’s job performance and one in three say they’re worse off financially since he’s been in the White House, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. And a poll by Politico and George Washington University shows 72 percent of voters believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Asked what Obama would say to people who feel worse off now than before he took office, Carney said the president
would tell them: “He fully understands the anxiety that is out there among the American people about the economy, the frustration at the pace of growth, the frustration at the pace of job creation. And that’s why he feels it is so urgent to take action now and not to simply say, oh, well, we shouldn’t do anything and then let it all be decided next year after an election.

Obama will deliver proposals for putting people back to work in a speech to Congress Thursday night.

As GOP regroups on healthcare, new poll questions its priority

USA-HEALTHCARE/The new House Republican majority may be about to do what President Barack Obama did a year ago — assign the top priority to healthcare at a time when Americans really really want action on the economy and jobs.

That’s what a new Gallup poll suggests. Pollsters found that a clear majority of U.S. adults (52 perecent) think it is “extremely important” for Congress and Obama to focus on the economy in the new year. Next in importance come unemployment (47 percent), the federal budget deficit (44 percent), and government corruption (44 percent).

Healthcare and education are tied at 40 percent. But when Gallup looked more broadly at what people said USA/were either “extremely important” or ”very important,” education edged ahead of healthcare.

Washington Extra – Down but not out

How the Democrats could have done with those numbers a week ago, or more precisely how they could have done with three or four months of numbers like that. The U.S. economy created a net 151,000 jobs in October, hiring hitting its fastest pace in six months. It is a sign that the economy is regaining momentum after a desperately sluggish summer, and might have lifted President Barack Obama’s mood a little too as he makes the long trip to India. USA/

They were subjected to some bitter attacks from their opponents, and even had their detractors within their two parties. Both suffered cruel defeats this week, but if you thought you had seen the back of Nancy Pelosi and Christine O’Donnell, think again. The Republican from Delaware, who ended her remarkably upbeat concession speech with an invocation to have a “party”, has already announced she is pursuing a book deal and will still be fighting against the Democrats. Shades of Sarah Palin perhaps.

Pelosi, meanwhile, says she now wants her old job back, that of House Minority leader. Defeated or not, who would bet against her?

Washington Extra – Slipping poll numbers

It’s more bad news for President Barack Obama with the release of our latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll today. The headline number is that, for the first time since he took office, more Americans now disapprove of his performance than approve. After a long period where his approval rating was stable at just over 50 percent, the last three months have seen a steady deterioration, matching the economy’s faltering performance.
obama_poll
Just like Ronald Reagan in 1982, Obama’s mid-term poll ratings are suffering from the economy’s woes. Faith in Obama’s ability to tackle the crisis was a key factor that swung the presidential race his way in 2008, but his performance on the economy is fast becoming his Achilles heel in the face of a concerted Republican assault. As Ipsos pollster Cliff Young told us, many voters had long been giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, but now patience has “basically vanished.”

Last month’s Reuters/Ipsos poll found Obama’s approval rating for his economic leadership was lower — and was deteriorating faster — than on any other issue.  This month’s poll gives some more clues as to why this is the case. Unemployment and government spending topped voters’ economic concerns, with 72 percent and 67 percent of respondents saying they were very worried over those issues respectively.

Republicans have been trying to convince voters that last year’s deficit-financed economic stimulus was not effective in reducing unemployment and ending the recession, and this argument may be striking home.

Washington Extra – Stormy weather on economic front

A new round of extremely violent thunderstorms rolled through Washington this morning and brought with it more stormy economic news. The latest hiccup to what President Barack Obama had hoped would be a “recovery summer” was the news that filings for unemployment benefits rose by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 484,000 in the week ended Aug. 7.

USA/WEATHERExperts had expected a drop in claims and the unwelcome surprise indicated that hiring is still weak and employers may return to cutting staff.

The grim data came two days after the Fed warned that the pace of the recovery had slowed and the trade deficit widened, sending economists back to their drawing boards to revise growth forecasts. China’s economy also showed signs of going off the boil.

Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Obama approval at 48 pct, disapproval at 48 pct

Americans are evenly split over whether President Barack Obama is doing a good job or a bad job — and few are on the fence.

A Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll found that Obama’s approval and disapproval ratings are each at 48 percent.

In the July 22-25 poll of 1,075 adults, Obama’s approval rating is in line with other polls that show his popularity below 50 percent.

Politics beckon again as Obama’s Maine getaway ends

After a laid-back family getaway on Maine’s scenic shoreline, it’s back to political reality for President Barack Obama.

The first family wrapped up a three-day mini-vacation in the upscale Bar Harbor resort and boarded a small presidential jet headed for Washington, where Obama will again face the daily pressures and policy battles. OBAMA/

In the coming week, he will weigh the latest dose of good news together with lingering concerns about the BP oil spill, sign a Wall Street overhaul into law and hold talks with new British Prime Minister David Cameron. Enduring problems like the struggling economy, high unemployment and the war in Afghanistan also remain on his plate.

“Heroism fatigue”: another hurdle for U.S. climate change action?

GERMANY/Could “heroism fatigue” be yet another bump in the road for any U.S. law to curb climate change? And what is “heroism fatigue” anyway?

To Paul Bledsoe of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, heroism fatigue is what happens when the Congress has spent most of the year doing something heroic, like trying to hammer out an agreement on healthcare reform, when what lawmakers might rather be doing is naming a new post office. Following one big, gnarly piece of legislation with another — like a bill to limit climate-warming carbon dioxide — can seem daunting.

“Especially Democrats want to get  back to some meat-and-potatoes job-creation stuff,” Bledsoe says. “They’re going to need a little time after healthcare.”

Official Washington dreams of breaking out of the bubble

OBAMA/Many in Washington dream of it, few manage it.

But for the President of the United States, it is just about impossible.

We’re talking about breaking out of the bubble.

The presidency is probably the biggest bubble in town. Think about the surrounding layers: physical protection from the Secret Service, political protection from senior aides and ego protection from a multitude of sycophants.

So it caught our ear when President Barack Obama broke away from his prepared remarks for an economic speech today and talked about the difficulty of escaping the bubble.

LITHUANIA/“Sometimes it’s hard to break out of the bubble here in Washington and remind ourselves that behind these statistics are people’s lives, their capacity to do right by their families,” Obama said as he recalled a recent trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he met people at a job center.

from Summit Notebook:

The Geithner approach: make the best of bad choices

Ever wonder how the U.S. Treasury Secretary gets through some of the most economically stressful times this country has seen in a while -- does he go for long runs? Sleep two hours a night?

Timothy Geithner has been in the job less than a year, and came in after the economy had slumped into recession. Now unemployment is approaching 10 percent, he's had to navigate through an economic stimulus package, and on top of all that the weakness of the U.S. dollar has other countries questioning whether it should still be the reserve currency.

Enough problems, we imagine, to give anyone a big giant headache and more than a few sleepless nights.