Is Obama ‘Falling to Earth?’

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 13, 2009 4:34pm

The Wall Street Journal today weighs in twice on President Barack Obama’s poll numbers.

The always astute Gerry Seib points out that Obama’s approval rating is strong but not off the charts when measured against other recent presidents, adding that Obama is much more popular than his policies.

He also quotes one of former President Bill Clinton’s pollsters, Doug Schoen, who co-wrote an even tougher piece with Scott Rasmussen for the op-ed page.

By their calculations, Obama is less popular than George W. Bush was at this point in his presidency, that his support is strikingly partisan, and that it’s dropping fast. 

Obama’s Washington could face an "absolute absence of public confidence," Schoen and Rasmussen write.

For a response, I reached out to an Obama pollster, who cited Gallup numbers to show
that Obama is not less popular than Bush was in March of 2001, and offered me this detailed rebuttal.

His basic points:

-Rasmussen’s polls are outliers
-Most public polls show that Obama’s public approval rating is strong and steady above 60 percent
-Independents are not abandoning Obama
-Americans are confident but realistic about economic stimulus and recovery
-Obama’s economic and health care agenda is broadly popular

The memo seems convincing to me on most points, with these two caveats: it does appear
that the fear of tax hikes has strong potential to stall the Obama agenda, and there’s just no
denying that no one wants another bank bailout right now. 

Obama has to hope that bank profits keep rolling in and his public-private partnership for buying up toxic assets works well enough to buy him a few more months before another TARP is needed.

Otherwise the rest of his agenda could get swallowed up by another bailout.

One thing both sides above agree on: the GOP is nowhere with the public right now.  What’s their
turnaround strategy?  Resist?  Reach-out? Rope-a-dope?

–George Stephanopoulos

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