Friday, February 3, 2012


Here's a chart from TPM, attempting to explain the reasons for the president's decline and rebound in popularity. I would probably also factor in economic worries, including the last few months' perceived improvement in the economy, as another explanation for the rebound. But certainly we should be able to agree that the debt ceiling fight last summer did neither the president's nor Congress's popularity any favors.

If we take that as a given, then what does it mean that the Republicans in Congress are now trying to walk away from the deal they struck last summer? Remember the deal was that if the super-committee could not agree on additional deficit-reducing measures, then automatic spending cuts, that were designed to be unpalatable to both sides, would take effect. Well, the super-committee failed to agree, and now the Republicans in Congress want to change those spending cuts they don't like (essentially defense cuts).

President Obama seems to be dug in here. He has already said he is not going to rescue Congress from this jam. And he is not under the same pressure he faced last summer to make a new deal with the Republicans (last summer, he had to make a deal or the Republicans might have allowed the government to default on its debt obligations). And if the president were to strike a new deal with the Republicans now, eliminating some of the automatic defense cuts, that would not help his popularity, as the chart above suggests. That means the president and the Senate Democrats will probably hold firm this time, insisting that the defense cuts take effect, or the Republicans go along with some revenue increases. The Republicans can probably be counted on to refuse to agree to anything that sounds like a tax increase.

And then what? The Republicans will have to run in the fall campaign on the platform that no matter what, they will not allow the rich to pay a penny more in taxes, and that they wanted to spend more money on defense, but the Democrats won't let them. How does that help their argument that we need to make tough choices to reduce the deficit? President Obama may have suffered a decline in popularity by bending over backwards last summer to try to make a deal with Congressional Republicans. But as usual, he appears to have been thinking way ahead to the 2012 election campaign. And has positioned his side to have much the better of the argument.


  1. Trend is a politician's friend. Things are looking better for the President. Especially in the middle of the one sided slugest on the right.

    What the Prez has to be concerned about is when the Republican candidate focuses on him and the word gets out about performance. If we are going to use statistics the Presidents biggest job program has been getting people to think they don't need a job or become so discouraged they stop looking.

    Where is he on increased enery production, genuine tax reform, doing something more than talk about China and breaking up the large depositories? What is he actually doing?

  2. You know Kevin, I can't think of one minute the president has spent trying to get people to think they don't need a job. And I follow his actions pretty closely. I just haven't seen him doing that at all. What I see him doing is touring factories every chance he gets. Asking CEOs in Silicon Valley why they can't make their products here in the USA. Trying to sell US products abroad. Getting Congress to invest more in technology. And manufacturing is up. In a pretty impressive way. So is energy production by the way.

  3. It's hyperbole, Joe. I don't think Obama is directly trying to convince people they don't need a job. But his numbers are better because so many have given hope of finding one and have stopped looking. We have less people working today then when Obama was sworn in. We have a larger population, a smaller workforce and more unemployed. There is nothing about job creation in America that is impressive at this point. Lets Hope that Changes!

  4. The proportion of the population working or looking for work is it's lowest in three decades. Millions and millions of people have been discouraged from looking for work over the last three years and the recent news from Dec and Jan have has not caused them to start looking for work. So while the Prez is not purpousely trying to get people to quit looking for work his three years in office have resulted in that group of people increasing in size.

  5. We lost about 3 million jobs in 2008 and 2009, and that was not Obama's fault. Even Mitt Romney admits that. Since then we have gained about 2 million of those jobs back. So the only criticism that can be made of the current administration is that employment is not improving fast enough. But it seems to me pretty hard for the president's opponents to make that argument while they have been doing everything they possibly can to fire more workers, while he has been doing everything he possibly can to increase hiring.

  6. You are correct, it is not all Obama's fault. I didn't say it was. Things are pretty hard for everyone right now. I know they are for me. I am far worse off than I was three years ago. The Left and the Right are going to get pummeled all year long -- as they should be!