Gillespie: Obama's presidency at the brink over health, deficits

President Obama's political future has been taken to the brink over voters' concerns about healthcare reform and the deficit, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie argued Monday.

"They've pushed all the chips to the middle of the table on this," Gillespie said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor this morning. "They've taken themselves to the brink in a pretty remarkable way."

Gillespie said that independent voters who supported Obama in the 2008 presidential election but who are undecided between Democrats and Republicans in 2010 midterm elections have been increasingly troubled by growing deficits and spending during the administration's first few months in office.

A series of focus groups conducted by Resurgent Republic, a right-leaning group founded by Gillespie and Republican pollster Whit Ayres, found that concerns over too much government spending being conducted too quickly "has penetrated the public perception," to the president and Democrats' detriment.

The focus groups found that while Obama remains personally popular, Gillespie said, concerns over the deficit and the way the health bill has been pursued would begin to wear on his approval in weeks and months to come.

"If they jam this through, then I believe his personal approval will have come down closer to his job approval," he said.

The former RNC chairman argued that fiscal discipline was the most resonant theme with the public in the months going forward, and that a stripped-down healthcare bill with more modest goals would yield the best political outcome for both the president and Republicans.

He also said that gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia this fall, where Republicans hope to take over Democratic seats, would provide key indicators about whether or not the GOP had bounced back from its recent political doldrums on the national stage.