- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

REGRESSING

His popularity hasn’t cratered, but the history-making presidency of Barack Obama is starting to look a little less extraordinary in the polls, according to David Paul Kuhn, chief political correspondent for the Web site RealClearPolitics (www.realclearpolitics.com).

“This week Obama crossed the six-month mark with a public approval rating in the lower half of modern presidents, compared to the 11 presidents regularly polled by Gallup in the post-War World II era,” writes Mr. Kuhn.

“Obama’s final approval rating after his first half year in office, based on a three-day average as of Tuesday, is 57 percent - ranking eighth of the 11 modern presidents. In statistical terms, Obama is tied with George W. Bush (whom Obama technically falls a point above) and Richard Nixon (whom Obama technically falls a point below).

“But W. Bush’s [polling] was steady during his first six months. By comparison, Obama’s [poll numbers] had an average public approval of 67 percent during his first week in office. Twenty-five weeks later, his weekly average fell to 59 percent.”

Even on the critical measure of whether voters think the country is on the right track, Mr. Obama has fallen back closer to the historical norm.

“The most remarkable fact of Obama’s first 100 days, compared to past presidents, has eroded,” according to Mr. Kuhn. “The portion of Americans who thought that the nation was on the right track roughly doubled from Obama’s first day to his 100th, from 22 to 42 percent, respectively, based on the RealClearPolitics average. But today, only 37 percent of Americans believe the country is on the right track.

“This is not how Democrats imagined Obama’s narrative six months ago.”

TRANSPARENCY?

The editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal found it hardly surprising that the White House delayed releasing the mid-year federal budget review - tracking the bailouts, stimulus payouts and other spending President Obama has overseen - amid the push for health care reform.

“It’s beyond us why anyone would challenge the Obama administration when it comes to their assurance that every penny of their ‘bailout and takeover’ billions has been spent wisely and effectively,” the Review-Journal wrote Thursday.

The paper compared the Obama administration’s stance with that of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who gave little satisfaction in Capitol Hill appearances this week to congressional Democrats and Republicans alike demanding more openness and transparency from the nation’s central bank.

“The Fed’s secrecy about all the tax money the bankers are loaning other big bankers is just an isolated case, right? After all, one part of the big ‘change’ Barack Obama promised to bring to Washington was more openness,” according to the paper.

“For instance, congressmen interested to know by how much Mr. Obama’s willy-nilly spending has already ballooned the deficit and the debt before they decide whether to let him spend $1 trillion taking over the health care industry (15 percent of the U.S. economy) can just examine the administration’s budget update, normally scheduled to be released in mid-July. …

“Oh, wait.

“Because the administration’s annual midsummer budget update is sure to show higher deficits and unemployment and slower growth than projected in President Obama’s budget in February and update in May … the release has been put off until the middle of next month - after the date by which the president is frantically urging Congress to ram health care ‘reform’ down our throats.”

STILL TRAILING

Northeast Republicans, a breed that looked to be about extinct following the 2008 elections and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s party-switch, could come roaring back next year as veteran Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut is looking more and more vulnerable with every passing poll.

The latest, released Thursday by Quinnipiac University, found Mr. Dodd still trailing one likely Republican challenger, former Rep. Rob Simmons, by a significant margin.

From the Hartford Courant’s Chris Keating: “Despite multiple television commercials by his campaign and third-party advertisers, Sen. Dodd is still behind Republican Rob Simmons in the latest Quinnipiac University poll by nine points” - 48 percent to 39 percent in a head-to-head matchup.

Mr. Dodd, who has been buffeted by ethics troubles, has reduced his negative ratings a little in the new poll, but he still has a long way to go to win a sixth term in 2010, according to Quinnipiac poll director Douglas Schwartz.

“Perhaps Dodd’s visibility in helping with President Barack Obama’s agenda has brought some wavering Democrats home. But he still is struggling with independents, who will be harder to win back than his own partisans,” Mr. Schwartz said. “Dodd’s most glaring weakness continues to be that a majority of voters say he is not honest and trustworthy; this is not something that will be easy for Dodd to reverse. Another problem for Dodd is that the bad economy has put voters in a grumpy mood. Consequently, voters have little patience for a politician’s missteps.”

BLOG WARS

Huffington Post blogger Nico Pitney is back in the middle of an online, left-right slugfest, this time with the National Review Online’s Michael Rubin, who compares the liberal scribbler to disgraced New York Times writer Jayson Blair.

Mr. Pitney criticized Mr. Rubin for testifying before a House committee about U.S. foreign policy on Iran, accusing the former Pentagon staffer of helping push bad intelligence that led the U.S. into the Iraq war. Mr. Rubin fired back in a series of posts accusing Mr. Pitney of lying “shamelessly” and of “lazy journalism.”

Fellow liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress quickly came to Mr. Pitney’s defense, accusing Mr. Rubin of “hysteria, whining and bullying.”

Mr. Pitney cut his teeth as a blogger for Think Progress, a mirror-image of the National Review on the left, run by John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. Mr. Pitney was criticized for reportedly coordinating a question with the administration on Iran before Mr. Obama called on him during a White House press conference last month.

That incident led Mr. Pitney into a showdown with Washington Post writer Dana Milbank late last month over press conference ethics and etiquette.

Mr. Blair, of course, resigned his job at the New York Times after he was accused of fabricating or plagiarizing dozens of stories.

Tom LoBianco can be reached at tlobianco@washingtontimes.com

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