After the GOP victory in the November 2010 elections, with a net pickup of 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats, the Obama Administration has been attempting to cultivate a moderate, centrist image to regain its footing with the American public. President Obama’s deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts, which would have expired on January 1, 2011, and his personnel shakeups in the White House worked to improve Obama’s standing with the public to above the critical 50% level by the end of January 2011.
However, in the past week, President Obama has now returned to the approximate level of public approval prior to the November elections, with about 45% of the public approving of his performance. The two main daily pollsters, Rasmussen Reports and Gallup, demonstrate this recent decline in approval, with Gallup measuring 45% approval/47% disapproval and Rasmussen showing 46% approval/53% disapproval. The mainstream media has yet to report upon this end to Obama’s polling resurgence, despite the lavish attention paid to the rise in ratings. Rasmussen reported on this recent slide today in its report:
The president’s Approval Index ratings have fallen nine points since Monday as the crisis in Egypt unfolds. Most of the decline comes from a fall in the number who Strongly Approve of the president’s performance (30% on Monday, 23% now). However, for the first time since mid-December, the number who Strongly Disapprove has moved back over the 40% mark for five straight days. The Strongly Disapprove total had been above 40% for most of 2010 but fell to the high-30s after the president and Senate Republicans reached a deal to extend the Bush Administration tax cuts.
The major issue commanding media coverage in the past week or so has been the ongoing protests in Egypt against President Mubarak’s regime. The inconsistent and highly publicized statements of the Administration about the crisis, from Vice President Biden asserting that Mubarak was not a dictator and shouldn’t resign to Obama’s recent demands that Mubarak “immediately” begin a transition to a new government, may have unsettled some Americans who were moving in Obama’s direction in response to his post-election centrist manoeuvrings. Unfortunately for President Obama, it appears that his Administration’s handling of the crisis may have again soured the middle 10% of the country on his leadership.
Seven thick hours of substantive policy discussion, preening and low-grade political clashes had Hill staffers nodding at their desks, policy mavens buzzing — and participants declaring the marathon C-SPAN-broadcast session a draw.
But in this case, the tie goes to Republicans, according to operatives on both sides of the aisle — because the stakes were so much higher for Democrats trying to build their case for ramming reform through using a 51-vote reconciliation tactic.
“I think it was a draw, which was a Republican win,” said Democratic political consultant Dan Gerstein. “The Republican tone was just right: a respectful, substantive disagreement, very disciplined and consistent in their message.”
The White House and Hill Democrats had hoped congressional Republicans would prove themselves to be unruly, unreasonable and incapable of a serious policy discussion — “the face of gridlock,” as one Democrat put it hours before the summit.
Obama clearly failed to gain a clear advantage over the GOP, like he did a few weeks ago at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore. Thrush also notes that the Democrats tended to talk about stories they’ve heard on the campaign trail about health experiences, as opposed to actually defending the legislation they were there to discuss:
Obama wasn’t able to dominate them like he did last month during an encounter with House Republicans in Baltimore, when he delivered zingers high above the GOP from a conference room podium.
All of this makes it tougher — though not impossible — for Democrats to make the case that they need to abandon talks with the GOP and immediately proceed with a plan to ram health reform through the Senate using a 50-vote reconciliation tactic.
“He didn’t create the predicate for passing this through reconciliation,” said a senior Senate GOP staffer.
That’s not to say the gathering of 40 House and Senate members wasn’t a shaggy, bumptious, sometimes testy affair. Democrats were less eager to discuss legislative process than present case stories of constituents denied coverage by health insurers — often without explaining how their own bill would benefit those people.
Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post, also a well-known Obama sycophant, managed to rationalize the naming of Obama as his #2 winner on his winners/losers list, despite the fact that the entire Obama strategy, to make the GOP look clueless and obstructive so as to justify the use of reconciliation, completely failed today. Of course, Cilizza did not address the overall strategy coming into the summit nor the effect of the summit on that strategy in his article, instead choosing a simplistic winners/losers formula so as to avoid what he must know is the truth – today was a very bad day for President Barack Obama. Indeed, Cilizza seemed more interested in whether CSPAN or the cable networks “won” today than the effect of the summit on Obamacare’s chances of passage.
Across the cable and network dial, and in the new media on the internet, even strongly left-leaning folks admitted that today was a total bust for the Obama Reconciliation Strategy and a veritable disaster for the Democrats who are facing reelection in 2010. For instance, leftist John Dickerson at Slate, while also in denial regarding the disaster today was for his hero Obama personally, admits in his writing that the GOP looked very good and fence-sitting Democrats facing the 2010 electoral buzzsaw saw nothing that would encourage them to jump off the cliff with Obama on Obamacare:
Republicans came out ahead for the same reason: They did not look like hell-bent obstructionists….
This is why it wasn’t a good day for congressional Democrats. According to strategists involved in 2010 races, fence-sitting Democrats needed to see Obama change the political dynamic. He needed to show how health care reform could be defended and how Republicans could be brought low. He did neither. White House aides and the president himself said he was going to press Republicans for how their plans would work, but he did that only twice—and mildly. There was no put-up-or-shut-up moment.
The political world watched the proceedings at Blair House looking for theatre: instead, a policy fight broke out. This time, both sides came armored, and there was no referee. It was a wash — and the tie goes to the Republicans.
The key question on the table was not whether Democrats and Republicans could come up with ways to compromise; it was whether the White House could move public opinion in a way that helps Nancy Pelosi get the votes she needs to pass the Senate bill in the House. That’s unlikely.
All told, the old halcyon days of “Hope and Change” in 2008, when “journalists” like Thrush, Ambinder, Cilizza and Dickerson could freely cheer lead for their hero Obama without any concern about appearing in the tank for Obama because the entire media was providing Obama with unerringly positive coverage at that time, are gone. Now, with Obama on year two and his signature initiative Obamacare on life support, these Obama sycophants are now being forced to admit that the momentum behind Obama’s agenda has completely collapsed. The failure of Obama to produce a GOP “gotcha” moment for his crew of “journalist” sycophants to write about tonight, combined with the steady and professional GOP performance, could be the death blow to the “last best chance” to pass Obamacare via reconciliation. An objective journalist would be outlining those possibilities in their piece tonight, it is unfortunate the American media is so enamored with Obama and the Democratic establishment that they have to be pulled kicking and screaming by indisputable facts, such as the GOP’s clear win in today’s summit, into reporting anything even approaching the facts on the ground.
Other, less biased, mainstream media sources stated with absolute clarity that today was an indisputable victory for the GOP, not least of which was CNN’s centrist analyst David Gergen, who blunted declared that for the GOP, this was “the best day they’ve had in years.” Gergen went on to explain that the GOP got tons of airtime today to show the public they have solutions in health care and are not obstructionist, perhaps undercutting the Democratic talking point of “Party of No” to some degree. Somehow even James Carville managed to praise the performance of GOP Senators today, and Politico also chimed in on the afternoon session by noting that “by the afternoon, however, both sides took a more substantive approach that played to the Republicans’ benefit, given Democratic attempts to portray them as unreasonable and partisan.”
CNN’s DAVID GERGEN: “The folks in the White House just must be kicking themselves right now. They thought that coming out of Baltimore when the President went in and was mesmerizing and commanding in front of the House Republicans that he could do that again here today. That would revive health care and would change the public opinion about their health care bill and they can go on to victory. Just the opposite has happened.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)