- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Let me get this straight: President Obama is on a nine-day tour of Asia after devoting much of his time to his troubled health care tax plan - yet the country’s No. 1 worry is the economy and jobs.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between where the president has been focusing his attention and what almost all Americans think is the most important issue of our time. Unemployment is at 10.2 percent, or 17 percent if you count those who have given up looking for work. One out of 10 workers is out of a job. Seven million jobs have been lost just since Mr. Obama signed his dubious government stimulus plan.

Two weeks ago, the Democrats lost two major governorships, in large part because of the economy and mounting joblessness and growing fear that Mr. Obama’s fiscal policies are plunging the country into trillions of dollars of debt, endangering the country’s global credit, devaluing the dollar and undermining the hope of future prosperity.

The post-off-year-election talking points coming out of the White House said the election had nothing to do with the administration or its agenda, Mr. Obama remains popular, the economy is coming back, and the stimulus is working according to plan.

That’s not what Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Clinton strategist James Carville discovered in their new Democracy Corps poll, which found that more Americans are losing confidence in how Mr. Obama and the Democrats are handling the economy and think the Republican Party’s message makes more sense.

“Republican messages on the economy were slightly stronger overall [than Democrats’], generated more intensity and were significantly more potent with independent voters,” they said.

“The strongest Republican message centered on a straight spending argument, claiming that Democrats had approved $5 trillion in new spending, added to the deficit and left a ‘mountain of debt’ for our grandchildren to pay back. This message was convincing to 58 percent of voters (very convincing to 32 percent),” the two Democratic strategists said.

Their findings of deepening pessimism about the economy - confirmed by other recent polls - show that “the country is not ready to listen to a narrative about how Democrats have brought the economy ‘back from the brink’ and averted an even worse disaster, as articulated by the president in his joint session address to Congress earlier this year.”

Their advice to the White House is to show how the stimulus plan has worked to create jobs and improved the economy. But the early evidence suggests the stimulus has been a flop, creating relatively few full-time jobs.

Associated Press reported last week that preliminary job-creation numbers put out by the administration were exaggerated at best or bogus at worst. For example, a Florida child day care center that said its stimulus funds saved 129 jobs had used the money to give its employees raises.

The Gallup Poll’s Economic Confidence Index last week “fell to a 15-week low, the job situation didn’t improve, and consumer spending remains down 34 percent from the same week a year ago. A 26-year high in the unemployment rate and a new 2009 high in gas prices seem to have more than offset any potential economic confidence associated with the gains in the Dow,” Gallup reported.

All of this has contributed to increasing support for the Republicans in the midterm election cycle, far sooner than anyone expected it to happen.

For the first time this year, Gallup said last week, the “Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48 percent to 44 percent among registered voters in the latest update on Gallup’s generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections - after trailing by six points in July and two points last month.”

Perhaps the most stunning manifestation of the Republican Party’s advance in the polls is their gain among independents. In Gallup’s latest poll, “independent registered voters favor the Republican candidate by 52 percent to 30 percent. Over the course of the year, independents’ preference for the Republican candidate in their districts has grown, from a 1-point advantage in July to the current 22-point gap.”

Ohio may be the clearest example of how the Democrats’ collapse in the polls is changing the national political landscape faster than many of the political reporters here are willing to acknowledge.

A mere seven weeks ago, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland led former Rep. John Kasich by 10 points, 46 percent to 36 percent, in a Quinnipiac poll of the governorship race. Last week, Quinnipiac said the race was in a dead heat, 40 percent to 40 percent.

What’s driving the Republicans’ ascendency in this Democratic-trending state? Ohio voters tell pollsters the Republican challenger would do a better job of handling the state’s battered economy and out-of-control budget.

Meantime, Mr. Obama is traveling abroad, again, to promote his popular global image, while Gallup says his daily average job-approval score has dropped to 50 percent, 19 points below his 52-week high. And more and more economists say they fear we are headed toward a very long and dismal jobless recovery.

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.


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