President Obama's announcement today of $17 billion in budget cuts, and his pledge to shrink the record federal deficit, aim at one of his greatest potential vulnerabilities – getting tagged as a free-spender.
In our latest ABC/Post poll just 51 percent of Americans said they approve of Obama’s handling of the federal budget deficit, with 43 percent disapproving. Nearly nine in 10 expressed concern about the deficit overall, with nearly six in 10 “very” concerned about it. And 53 percent said they're not confident the government has put in place adequate controls to avoid waste and fraud in the use of stimulus funds, with 32 percent “not at all” confident vs. just 7 percent “very” confident.
While Obama is very broadly popular, these do cut to his hold on the political center. Just under half of independents, 48 percent, approve of his handling of the deficit. Sixty-one percent of independents are “very” concerned about the deficit. And 57 percent of independents are not confident in controls on the stimulus spending.
Obama’s worst rating involves another aspect of federal spending – the automaker loans. Just 41 percent overall approve of his handling of that situation, with 53 percent disapproving.
“Waste, fraud and abuse” was perfected as a Republican rallying cry back in the Reagan days. In announcements like today's, Obama looks to be trying to inoculate himself from that particular virus.