- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2011


President Obama was back on his bus this week, promoting yet another jobs bill in the diminishing hope that it might help him hang on to his own. Just days after the Democrat-controlled Senate failed to muster enough support just to make his bill the pending business, he was venting in North Carolina, threatening Republicans and blaming Wall Street again for America’s unending recession, for which he accepts no responsibility.

Conveniently ignoring that two Senate Democrats voted against his tax-and-spend bill last week while others held their noses and voted aye, Mr. Obama said Republicans would pay a very heavy price for voting to kill his proposal.

“If they vote against these proposals again, if they vote against taking steps now to put Americans back to work right now, then they’re not going to have to answer to me, they’re going to have to answer to you,” the president said at a campaign rally Monday.

But Mr. Obama’s third or fourth jobs bill may be a hard, if not downright impossible, sell in North Carolina, a state he barely carried by the skin of his teeth in 2008 by less than 1 percentage point and where unemployment has surged to a hope-crushing 10.4 percent under his presidency.

Mr. Obama wasn’t here, though, to win over new voters to his banner, but to appeal anew to a wavering political base, especially dispirited black voters.

In the Tar Heel State, where Democrats will converge next year to dutifully renominate him for a second term, “Obama’s most ardent supporters in Durham’s black community worry that waning enthusiasm among African-Americans may prevent him from repeating his razor-thin North Carolina victory of 20008,” writes Boston Globe reporter Tracy Jan.

Ms. Jan quotes a 52-year-old black woman standing in line at the employment office, saying she “can’t muster the will to support Obama for a second term.”

“I don’t see what he’s done. I’m not even going to waste my time and vote,” this Democrat said.

In Durham County, where the president spoke, nearly 20 percent of its black voters are jobless, and Mr. Obama’s job-approval rating has dropped, even among this most loyal constituency, who have suffered under his rule more than any other segment of the state’s electorate.

Nationally, black unemployment has surged to 16.7 percent, the highest since 1984, and a front-page story in Tuesday’s Washington Post is ominously titled, “Can Obama hold on to black voters in 2012?”

Many hard-pressed North Carolina Democrats must be asking: If his first $800 billion-plus jobs bill failed to ignite the U.S. economy, why will this latest tax and spend bill, at roughly half the price, be any different? Or is this bill just another taped-together, repainted campaign prop for the 2012 election to give the president some cover?

Mr. Obama headed into the weekend before his three-day bus tour began dogged by a lengthening list of Gallup polls that painfully illustrated why surveys show that 75 percent of Americans say the economy is “getting worse.”

Among Gallup’s findings:

c Nineteen percent of Americans say they are struggling just to afford food and, overall, “fewer Americans had access to basic life necessities in September.”

c Thirty percent of 18-to-29-year-olds are unemployed or underemployed, forced to take temporary or part-time jobs. Thousands of college graduates say they cannot find any jobs at all.

c If the plethora of “Where Are The Jobs?” signs among the Occupy Wall Street protesters accurately reflect their anger, these young people are also among the victims of Mr. Obama’s failed economic policies and his empty promises that unemployment would be below 8 percent by now.

c The Washington Post reported Monday that recently returning military veterans “have an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent,” well above the national 9.1 percent jobless rate.

These and other survey numbers are more than tragic human statistics - they are the sad story of a great nation in a decline, led by an incompetent administration whose ill-fated policies have worsened an economy that should be on a sharp upward trajectory by now.

The network news shows keep downplaying Mr. Obama’s troubles by reporting his job-approval numbers are in “the low to mid-40s.” In fact, Gallup’s daily polls showed his approval numbers dropping to a low of 38 percent for the first time Friday and again on Saturday, with a high of 54 percent disapproving of his presidency.

Throughout the first half of this year as the mediocre Obama economy grew weaker and unemployment rose, much of the news media took comfort in reporting that, while the president’s polls were falling, the Republicans’ were worse in generic surveys.

But at the end of last month, Gallup asked voters this simple and apropos economic question: “Looking ahead for the next few years, which political party do you think will do a better job of keeping the country prosperous?”

The response: 48 percent answered “the Republicans,” 39 percent said “the Democrats,” and 13 percent had “no opinion.”

Notably, Gallup asked the same question about which party would do a better job of “protecting the country from international terrorism and military threats?” The GOP led that one by an 11-point margin.

Mr. Obama’s taxpayer-paid bus trip took him into Virginia on Tuesday, a state he won in 2008 but in which he now appears to be the underdog. In a further sign of his weakness, Mr. Obama’s former Democratic National Committee chairman, Tim Kaine, who is running for the Senate, was expected to be noticeably absent on the tour, according to the Associated Press.

A further embarrassment for the president: Prominent Democrats in the state urged the White House to readjust his scheduled campaign stops so Mr. Obama would not be visiting battleground districts where local Democrats face tough elections for the General Assembly next month.

Forget for the moment the coming political battle with Republicans - Mr. Obama is now struggling just to win back the support of his own party.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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