TAPPER: How focused is the administration on the pending referendum in southern Sudan, and making sure that that happens?
GIBBS: I will — can get some guidance from you — for you from the NSC on some of the specifics on that.
TAPPER: There are a lot of human-rights activists who are concerned that Sudan has pretty much just fallen off the radar of President Obama, and they're very worried about a pending –
GIBBS: Well, let me get you some guidance on that. I don't — I don't have anything with me.
TAPPER: In terms of — we have a new poll out, ABC News, and it shows some pretty bad numbers: about 51 percent — bad numbers for the president — 51 percent would rather have the Republicans run Congress to act as a check on Obama's policies. Why do you think a majority of the country would want the other party to take over to be a check on Obama's policies?
GIBBS: Jake, I — you know, I'm — you, I assume, polled a fair number of respondents on that that can weigh in on what they're — what they're
TAPPER: I know what they say, but why are you not concerned that –
GIBBS: Well, that's not what you asked.
TAPPER: Are you — are you concerned? And why do you think there is this reaction to have a Republican Congress serve as a — as a check on a — the president?
GIBBS: Well, I will say, if you look at certain numbers in there, you ask them — ask voters, particularly on the economy, who do you trust more to make the right decisions, and the answer is they trust more Democrats than they do Republicans. So Jake, I think I've said this over the past couple days as we've gotten into more of this political discussion. I think there is, rightly so, a great frustration in this country with where we are economically, and understanding the depths of the numbers of jobs that were lost, the length of this recession, what it has meant for people on Main Street, what it has meant for — we've — what we've talked about in this; the types of unemployment range much differently than would in a normal recession. You see this affecting not just lower-skilled workers but higher- skilled, college-educated workers in a way that we haven't seen in previous recessions. Again, I think there is a very big frustration out there about where we are in the economy. The president is one of those that's frustrated, and we'll continue to work on where we are in this recovery to strengthen it. I will say a couple different things. Obviously the president's going to go to Michigan on Thursday and talk about investments that have been made in the recovery act that are creating jobs through entirely new industries that we've brought to this country. We are going to continue to work, as I talked about a minute ago, on ensuring that we have an extension of unemployment insurance to deal with the long-term unemployed, increased lending to small business. All this stuff is going to take some time because it took us quite a bit of time to get into the economic situation that we're in today.
TAPPER: Do you think that's the only reason? It's the economic reason?
GIBBS: I — looking at your poll, I think almost all of — judging from what I read from the poll, I think that most of this frustration is from the economy, yeah. That's — what was my reading.
UPDATE: White House spokesman Tommy Vietor provides an update to the question on Sudan:
“The Administration is intensely focused on the importance of a timely and credible referendum – and to ensure that its results are respected internationally. This is critical to the prospects for peace in Sudan. We worked to ensure that the UNMIS mandate would allow for more UN support for the referendum process than was the case for the April elections. Vice President Biden discussed this issue directly with President of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir last month. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Rice and General Jones all met with the SRSG for UNMIS, along with the AU High Implementation Panel for Sudan, last month to discuss their plans, offer our support, and better coordinate our efforts. The US has allocated $51 million for support for the referenda. We engaged with the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission immediately upon its establishment to move out aggressively.”
- Jake Tapper