Obama and the Economy: Success, Just Not the Right Kind

Despite recent political success, the president is taking heat from Democrats.

ByDavid Kerley and Christina Capatides via via logo
July 16, 2010, 6:07 PM

July 17, 2010 -- On a sun-soaked peak in Acadia National Park Friday, President Obama welcomed the weekend like a man who knows he's had a good week. Financial reform behind him, he flew to Bar Harbor, Maine, content to focus on his family rather than politics.

With no public events scheduled until Sunday, the Obamas went cycling and looked out on the Atlantic Coast from Acadia's tallest peak, Cadillac Mountain, all smiles. This is President Obama's third vacation since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began, but this vacation is different -- better because, for the first time since April, no oil is spilling into the Gulf.

But for all of his recent successes – health care reform, financial reform, what may be the end of the disaster in the Gulf – President Obama has taken the brunt of much criticism lately. And some of it has come from his own party.

Politicians are often criticized for not following through on the promises that they make. They hit the campaign trail with words about more jobs, less war, cleaner energy and insurance for all. Then, if they fail to accomplish these lofty goals, the voters take their support elsewhere.

Enter Barack Obama; a Senator from Illinois who campaigned on energy, financial and health-care reform legislation.

A little over a year and a half after entering office? He's accomplished two of the three and all signs point to the President setting his sights on the third.

In fact, on Thursday – as his financial reform legislation was being successfully jammed through Congress – President Obama was speaking to a crowd in Holland, Michigan about cleaner energy and the batteries for electric cars that will soon begin production there.

"And by the way," the President said. "These aren't just any jobs. These are jobs in the industries of the future."

President Obama then went on to explain that nine advanced batteries plants have been created so far, thanks to his economic plan. On the surface, the speech was about energy, but below the surface, the President's focus was also on jobs.

"But what I'm absolutely clear about, and what this plant will prove, is that we are headed in the right direction, and that the surest way out of the storms we've been in is to keep moving forward, and not go backwards," he said.

This undercurrent of jobs is poignant because many voters and politicians feel that the Obama White House made a tactical error in not focusing primarily on jobs in the first place.

"For some voters, health care was a distraction," says Jim VandeHei of Politico. "Yes, maybe they like the idea of health care reform and covering the uninsured, but it didn't get to the heart of the matter. People did not have jobs. The economy was not growing and there's certainly some people who feel he should've taken incremental steps in areas like health care and just focused on job creation; focused on creating new markets, new business; getting people back to work and getting people feeling like the economy is solid and it's worth investing in and worth being optimistic about."

Obama's Goals: Criticized by Democrats Despite Successes

And there might be something to this argument.

As it stands, the President has accomplished two of the three major goals that he campaigned on. He has largely been successful, and yet many Democrats fear they will lose control of the House come November. And many Independent voters have parted ways with the President. According to Gallup, President Obama's job approval rating among Independents is down from 65 percent – when he took office – to a mere 38 today.

Last Sunday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted that the Democrats might lose seats this fall and Thursday, in an interview with Chuck Todd, the President himself gave voice to this truth.

"If unemployment is 9.5 percent," President Obama said. "The party in power is going to have some problems, regardless of how much progress we have made and how much worse it would be if the other side had been in charge."

The fact may be then that, until Americans get jobs, any other Presidential successes are inconsequential.

"He has been successful," says VandeHei. "But it's the wrong kind of success, at least for independent minded voters right now."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events