For Obama, it's all about the politics
During the 1992 Clinton campaign there was a famous sign hanging in the campaign headquarters exclaiming “It’s the economy, stupid!”, reminding everyone that the focus of the campaign was that the economy (George Bush sr.’s economy) was terrible, and that it was all his fault.
Fast forward sixteen years and Obama ran his campaign on a similar notion, but now, three years into his first term and looking towards re-election, things are worse and blaming George W. Bush just won’t cut it. So, for Obama, it’s all about the politics.
His recent “jobs” speech to Congress was, at its root, about just one job: his own, and his attempts to keep it. The whole point was to have a prime-time TV opportunity to set the lay of the land for the coming re-election campaign. His reading his “plan” from a teleprompter on national TV to members of Congress who are capable of reading it for themselves was neither capable of nor meant to accomplish anything else.
But why the sudden urgency on Obama’s part? That the economy has been awful is nothing new. Quite the contrary, it is something all Americans have seen and experienced first hand for several years (except maybe those who work for the government).
So again, why now? As it turns out, it wasn’t a set of new economic indicators that drove Obama’s need to look busy, but rather new political indicators.
Obama ended the month of August with the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, (Gallup put him at just 40% approval). The same held true for his standing with young voters, Hispanics and women, three voting blocs that were crucial to his 2008 election. Only 40% of Independent voters approve of the job he’s doing, while 54% disapprove: putting him upside-down by -13%. The most recent bi-partisan “Battleground Poll” reported that only 26% of voters said they would “definitely” vote to re-elect him. And the Rasmussen poll’s approval index put those who “strongly approve” of Obama at just 19%, while 45% “strongly disapprove”: a difference of -26%, which means that there are a lot of people who are really passionate about seeing him lose next year.
You can almost overlay Obama’s poll numbers on a timeline along with the introduction or enactment of his policies. The more he has proposed or done, the worse he does in the polls. It seems that the “new” has worn off and Obama fatigue has set in.
Things have gotten so bad that there is a new iPhone app, called the “Obama Clock”, which keeps track of what can only be viewed as negative metrics: Obama’s approval rating, the national debt, the unemployment rate, the price of a gallon of gas and the housing price index. It’s currently the number one reference application for iPhones. How fitting that the tech-savvy 18-35 year old voters who gave Obama two-thirds of their votes in 2008 now have an app to keep better track of his failings.
In the end, Obama’s jobs speech delivered nothing new, only his intention to double down on more of the same. “Why?” can only be chalked up to one of two reasons (or both): 1) a personal belief that, despite all evidence to the contrary, more of the same that hasn’t worked is the only thing that will work; or 2) a desire to propose something that conservative Republicans will certainly reject, in the hope that he can paint them as such bad actors that the public will re-elect him next year. The problem with option one is, again, all evidence to the contrary, and option two is a vain hope that the public will forget about all the evidence to the contrary for option one.
The speech was also an attempt to lessen the impact of being judged on the results of what he’s done so far. As if to say, “Hey, I didn’t get to try everything I wanted yet, so you really can’t judge me by the results.” Because to simply stand by what he’s done and the results so far is political suicide, which is something most politicians don’t commit consciously.
Despite his attempts to look tough, the polls suggest that it is becoming more difficult for him to shake the building impression that he is a loser. It is a process that feeds on itself and is almost impossible to stop.
As General Patton once said, “Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser”. He was right. Just ask Jimmy Carter.