By Cheri Jacobus - 07/23/09 04:16 PM EDT
When a president enjoys a high personal popularity level, conventional wisdom dictates it is the opportune time to move forward on as much of his legislative agenda as is possible. But when the initial personal approval rating and the approval of the legislative items are in different neighborhoods, the legislative agenda could be sending the personal approval numbers into a freefall.
Did Americans elect a man whom they liked personally, but not pay enough attention to “the issues” to know how radically different he is on those issues from themselves? Or do they generally agree with President Obama on “the issues” but no longer approve of him due to his mounting Oval Office failures, thereby losing confidence in his ability to “change America” as he promised in his campaign?
With a recent Rasmussen poll showing Obama’s ratings at 51 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval, it is clear the better Americans know him, the less they love him, his policies and performance.
The initial vague acceptance of an Obama healthcare overhaul was based almost solely on a general good feeling many Americans had about Barack Obama himself. They liked him. They like his wife and kids, the way he speaks and the way he handles himself. But when they started learning the details and the economic impact of his healthcare plan, not to mention what it would mean to them and their families with lower-quality care, high cost, more taxation and long waiting lists, Americans recoiled.
President Obama gave a tortured denial at Wednesday night’s news conference when asked if his rush for healthcare reform before the August congressional recess is prompted by his fear that time isn’t on his side in terms of passing his agenda. But with his poll numbers dropping steadily, it is apparent he is reluctant to allow Americans sufficient time to become more familiar with the specifics of the plan.
Contrary to Obama’s claim that it is Republican “scare tactics” getting in the way of his healthcare plan passing in a Democrat-majority Congress, it’s Democrats who are slamming on the brakes. A long August recess back home means they will get an earful from constituents. That’s bad news for Obama. Better for the president to force congressional Democrats to go home in August and defend the Obama plan they voted for than have them listen to folks back home and return to Washington in the fall poised to vote “nay” on Obama healthcare.
Partnered with the failed Obama mammoth spending “stimulus” bill and nearly 10 percent unemployment in a bleak economy, Obama is compelled to cash in buckets of political capital to buy support for his healthcare scheme. Now he has taken one step further, pressuring congressional Democrats to spend their own political good will on an unpopular bill. It’s only a matter of time before that well runs dry.
Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.