a must-read for political insiders. It carries the latest news and punditry, and keeps track of
the Congressional, Gubernatorial, and Presidential races. It is a must-read for anyone in
the political business. It is published by the National Journal which leans regressive. For
a couple of weeks now, the constant theme of the "Hotline" has been the eroding of
President Obama's popularity, which means his legislative proposals are in trouble. They
trumpet how the honeymoon is over. Obama must now change his style. He has overreached.
His coalition is falling apart. The authors now point to this erosion as something the GOP
will benefit from; and in fact, credit the GOP message as eating away at popular and
congressional support for the President and his programs. If all of that is not bad enough
for Obama supporters, the authors go on to predict that the GOP will do well in the 2010
midterm elections and regain seats lost.
Their conclusions are passing strange because they publish polls as well as news
and punditry. Now polls may not be as vague or uncertain as some would like to claim;
but they do give us a quick snapshot of what the state of play is politically right now.
Politicians notoriously play down polls they don't like and trumpet those they do.
One should always be wary of polls with a small sample size or a large margin of error.
However, the science of polling is such that daily tracking polls by reputable companies
are reasonably accurate. Based on its interpretation of polling numbers, the "Hotline"
comes to the conclusion that the President is in trouble. Now, this would not be a big deal
if an insider political, regressive leaning publication opined on the President's performance.
However, the corporate media has decided that this is a good story line; and they are
repeating the same mantra. The President's support is eroding, Americans are responding
to the GOP message, healthcare reform is doomed, the President has overreached; and
it's all going to hell in a handbasket. Oh yes, and this will weaken the President and
Democrats in 2010; and now many Democratic members of Congress are getting happy
feet and are worried that Obama might cost them their jobs, so they are running for cover.
Republican leaders and their regressive pundit friends are on all the news shows
proclaiming the new accepted wisdom. Their attacks are working. The "Hotline" says
they are recruiting great candidates as their message of too much government spending,
deficits, lower taxes, and economic devastation resounds across the hustings.
What makes all this odd is that the authors don't seem to read some of the material
they publish. The "Hotline" polls of last week seem to tell a different story. CBS News'
poll says of the President's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, that
Americans by a two to one margin favor her nomination. A Research 2000 poll says that
President Obama's favorability rating is 61%. That number is "down" from 64% in early
July. (All these numbers are within the margin of error, by the way.) When Obama was
elected, the nation felt the country was going in the wrong direction by a 17-50% margin.
The latest polling has these numbers almost reversed, with 43% saying the country is going
in the right direction and 50% disagreeing. This improvement is despite continuing
terrible economic news, rising unemployment, and a drumbeat of criticism of Obama and
his response. The Gallup tracking poll for July has the President's favorability rating
holding between 57% and 59%. None of these numbers suggest a big movement away
from the President.
If voters were abandoning the President, if Americans were truly not happy with
his performance, if the new message of the Republicans was getting traction; then the
numbers for the GOP should be full of good news. What is the reality? The Research 2000
poll reports that only 22% of Americans have a favorable view of Senator Mitch McConnell,
the Republican Senate Minority leader. The Republican leader in the House, Representative
John Boehner (8th district of Ohio) is clearly benefitting from Obama fatigue. His
favorability rating has risen from 14% to 16%. GOP chair Michael Steele was seen skipping
to work when he saw that 22% of Americans like his party. This is a huge step up from
the 20% who liked the GOP at the beginning of July. Despite all the doom and gloom,
Nancy Pelosi looks at numbers that make her the second most popular politician in the
nation; and Congressional Democrats are enjoying a more than two to one favorability
rating over their Republican colleagues.
So, I am confused. The President's popularity is still high. There has not been
erosion on the "right track/wrong track" question. Republicans are still dramatically
unpopular; and their top Congressional leader in the House is less popular than Dick Cheney.
What's happening is an example of the corporate media's need for a horse race,
a fight, a conflict to attract viewers. The corporate media pundits don't have anything to
say without a fight. The media companies are also scared to death that healthcare reform,
energy reform, new financial oversight, and regulation could possibly pass with a strong
and popular Obama. Corporate America is fighting every one of Obama's proposals and
spending millions to influence Congressional and public opinion; and corporate America
owns the media.
The Republican brand has not improved at all. Americans do not trust the
Republicans on subjects from the economy to foreign policy. The Republican leadership
has offered no new ideas at all. Their answer to energy reform is more coal and more oil,
more nuclear power, and no new environmental regulation. Their proposals on healthcare
are to leave the private insurers alone to continue business as usual. On the economy, they
were quite willing to bail out Wall Street, but have proposed nothing to help out Main
Street. Their principle message is that Obama is spending too much money and hasn't
created enough jobs fast enough. The American people still like the President, want a
public option to healthcare, agree with the passage of a new energy bill passed in the
House (without virtually one Republican vote), support increased money for community
colleges and job training; and they have patience to give the President time. Given the
situation he inherited, and given the Republican fingerprints all over this economic disaster;
the American public still trusts the President to fix things, and the polls show that to be true.
Now, if only those who have the sky falling on the President would read them. What do you
think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Send them to email@example.com