Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 21, 2009

CROSSTABS OFFER THE WHITE HOUSE GUIDANCE.... We talked earlier about the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, which shows President Obama's approval rating staying strong, but a drop off in support for health care reform and the president's handling of the issue.

Specifically, the poll showed 46% of Americans approving of Obama on health care, with 50% disapproving. In general, this isn't an especially helpful measurement -- it's too broad. The group that rejects the president's handling of the issue includes ardent supporters of single-payer, those who like the Democratic approach but don't like Obama's political strategy, Tea Baggers who think reform is tantamount to the Nazi Holocaust, etc. Simple "disapproval" lumps together people who may strongly disagree with one another.

More important is who is shifting from support to disapproval. Greg Sargent talked to WaPo polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta, who found in the crosstabs that the White House is slipping with its base.

The numbers tell the story: In three key cases where Obama has dropped significantly, he's also dropped by sizable margins among Dems and liberals. Let's take the major findings driving the discussion today, and compare them with his drop among Dems and libs.

The president's slip isn't entirely the result of frustrated liberals and Democrats, but their aggravation is clearly having an effect. The number of liberals who are confident that Obama will make the right decision, for example, has dropped from 90% to 78%. Liberals who approve of the president's handling of health care has dropped from 81% to 70%.

These almost certainly aren't people expressing disapproval because they're watching Fox News or buying into McCaughey's lies -- these are progressive supporters who disapprove of unhelpful concessions to conservatives and overly-cautious centrists.

I can imagine that some of the president's aides may find this dynamic frustrating. Some on the right think Obama is too far to the left. Some on the left think Obama is too far to the right.

That said, if the White House political office wants to see these numbers improve, these poll results offer a pretty big hint. It's not complicated -- take a firm stand in support of the already-articulated principles, stand up to obstructionist Republicans, and tell centrists that the days of slow-walking reform are over.

Get a good bill through Congress, and the polls will look far more encouraging for the administration. This isn't rocket science.

Steve Benen 4:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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"Get a good bill through Congress, and the polls will look far more encouraging"

YES. I hope they're getting this.

Posted by: JPS on August 21, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

I can imagine that some of the president's aides may find this dynamic frustrating. Some on the right think Obama is too far to the left. Some on the left think Obama is too far to the right.

Well, I'm one person on the left who is frustrated because Obama keeps moving too far from something that will actually work. I'm willing to see my taxes go up if the money will be used to solve the problem. But I'm not interested in a health care reform bill that's just like the bank bailout -- giving hundreds of millions of dollars to corporations in exchange for . . . nothing.


Posted by: SteveT on August 21, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Obama keeps moving too far from something that will actually work.

I don't think Obama is really too interested in what works...he is interested in anything so that he can claim victory. Its crazy, but that is how he operates. What else explains making 40% of the stimulus bill into tax cuts that had proved a failure only months before during the Bush tax rebate scheme?

More on the poll:

The WaPo poll found that 49 percent now express confidence that Obama will make the right decisions for the country, down from 60 percent at the 100-day mark in his presidency.

On that question, among liberals, Obama has dropped a surprising 12 points, from 90% to 78%, in the same time period. Among Dems, hes dropped eight points, from 90% to 82%.

This is classic Democratic stuff---Obama is cutting off his nose to spite his face. This will be devastating to Democrats during the midterms. Obama is pitching the base, to win a few indie and Republican votes---people that either won't show up for midterm elections or will vote for the Republican candidate. D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R coming!

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on August 21, 2009 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

I am one of those of whom you write. I want President Obama to take a firm stand with Congressional Democrats, pass health insurance reform the same way Medicare was passed by President Johnson, the same way that Bush passed tax cuts for wealthy people. The only ones who will be offended are Republicans who are not going to vote for progressives anyway and the ignorant race haters who are even less likely to vote progressive!

Posted by: captain dan on August 21, 2009 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Barack Obama needs Rahm Emanuel the way a hummingbird needs a boat anchor. The guy who helped sink HillaryCare as the White House Political Director in 1993 is doing his magic again as Chief of Staff.

As Dean Venron Wormer nearly said, "Mean, stubborn and stupid is no way to go through life."

Posted by: Woodrow L. Goode, IV on August 21, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

It is clear what shapes political life in the United States. If you are an evangelical you vote for 30 years to end abortion and all you get is tax cuts for the rich. If you are a progressive, in the largest progressive coalition in a generation you come to find that that Obama is a blue dog democrat and his people have been making deals to prop-up the health care industry's gravy train monopoly just after they sent billions to bail out Wall Street with no accountability.

The only real problem in America is making sure the profits go those who pay for politicians. The difficult bit is to paint the patina of reform on the real agenda- you know co-ops are a public plan. They are just like a public plan. Looks like reform, sounds like reform, but it reforms nothing.

Posted by: bellumregio on August 21, 2009 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

The president's falling numbers among the liberals should not come as a shock to anyone who has closely followed things up this point: The administration has not seemed to stand for anything, and with each passing day they seemed ready to endorse the idea of a watered down version of the health care bill, as long as they passed a bill...any bill.

The administration began losing progressives -- this one included -- when they signaled the willingness to compromise on, even doing away with, the public option. Then yesterday, when I heard the administration still pushing the idea of negotiating with Grassley et al, after everything that we now know about this "bipartisan" group, I gave up...

Just read Paul Krugman's latest piece at NYT and you'll know why the progressives have begun deserting the president...

Posted by: dcshungu on August 21, 2009 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Rocket science with a nuclear warhead

Steve: Get a good bill through Congress, and the polls will look far more encouraging for the administration. This isn't rocket science.

The blast of a good bill is far wider and more powerful. To see the range of its fallout imagine the bill is a dud. The republicans will be ascendant in the midterms and the sine wave going forward favors them. But it is all much worse than that.

Obama's reelection prospects are dimmed. Any movement on global warming is canned. And the frequency of the aforementioned sine wave will be compressed with wider and deeper republican troughs to climb out from...

We all know that China and India are ascendant. The failure to pass a good bill here and get the positives going forward will simply accelerate America's decline. This isn't the time for more anti-science nonsense.

So this bill is huge.
Without it, it is not just the short term prospects of the Democratic party that go kaboom.

Posted by: koreyel on August 21, 2009 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

When will they have a poll that asks,

Do you want to live in the same country with Republicans?

Posted by: cld on August 21, 2009 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

When the pro health-care reformers can pony up enough money to purchase a few hours everyday of advertisements on the major cable and T.V. networks, we may then start to have a real discussion about health care reform on so called news programs.

Posted by: Ned Pepper on August 21, 2009 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans and those who vote for them get what they deserve.
But those of us who vote against the stupidity, the greed, the short-sightedness, the lies -- we're going to have to get what the Republicans deserve right along with them.

Posted by: smartalek on August 21, 2009 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

In general, this isn't an especially helpful measurement -- it's too broad.

It's not the measurement that's too broad; it's the conclusions that people draw from that measurement.

On the other hand, I agree that it would be helpful to have other questions that reveal why people are dissatisfied with Obama's performance.

The same criticism can be leveled at the right track/wrong track questions that pollsters have used for years.

For example, the fact that x% of Americans believed that George Bush was not on the right track or that the country was not on the right track under Bush, does not point out that a significant number of those could have been people who thought that Bush was too liberal and the country needed to follow an even more conservative path.

Poll responses always have to be interpreted carefully. There's nothing new there.

Posted by: oh really on August 21, 2009 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I think it is time to play hardball with the congress and ram through a real reform bill. The risk of this is that centrists democrats flee and the whole thing goes down in flames, but frankly I think passing a wishy washy bill that doesn't really change health care would be worse than nothing.

Obama is supposed to be familiar with street ball. Now's the time to play tough. If they don't do this right, then you can forget just about anything else. The republicans will continue to pull the same stunt on every piece of legislation proposed.

It's a big game of political chicken.

Posted by: DK on August 21, 2009 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

"...but their aggravation is clearly having an effect.

The central reason for our doom. Zero unity, zero loyalty.

We deserve to lose.

Posted by: MissMudd on August 21, 2009 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Good post. And to summarize it even more:

Stick up for the base, and pass good policy.

Sticking up for the base will help his numbers with the left, and passing good policy will help his numbers with the center (and the left too, obviously). The right is lost, in more ways than one.

It's not that hard.

Posted by: Steve Simitzis on August 21, 2009 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama's reelection prospects are dimmed."

O for fuck's sake

Posted by: MissMudd on August 21, 2009 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Ditto Steve right above me.

Posted by: jamfan on August 21, 2009 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Obama and the Congressional Democrats were handed a once in a generation chance to show that- at long last- the Democratic Party is once again actually capable of doing something to help ordinary people when it has power. This will be their last chance, and miraculously they're ALREADY more than halfway to blowing it. People who think it's the Republican Party that's on the way to extinction are very seriously mistaken. Parties that stand for something- even if the something is batshit insanity- always live to fight another day. But a party like the Democratic Party that stands for who the hell knows what and is of no earthly use to anybody except its wealthy backers? Its support can evaporate overnight. Just ask the Whigs- if you can find any.

These idiots, from Obama and Rahm down, seem to have no idea that they're dancing on the crumbling edge of a cliff. They have very little time left to step back onto solid ground. Aside from these polls, already we're hearing very threatening noises over health care from the big unions, without whose support the party is dead meat.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on August 21, 2009 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Today I sent the following letter to each of my state's Democratic Senators. Try a variation with your own:

Dear Senator Murray,
Dear Senator Cantwell,
I have been an active Democrat since I handed out leaflets for Adlai Stevenson in 1956.
From your very first campaign for the Senate, I and my extended family have contributed money, doorbelled, and helped organize voters for you.
But, Senator, we folks back home in Washington are angry, and you need to know it.
In the last election a solid majority of the people of this state and this country voted for a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress because we were promised major health care reform. Promised, Senator, by the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. That, Senator, is your heritage.
Now that promise is about to be broken, and all the work we did to get Democrats elected last year, especially President Obama, is about to be betrayed for the sake of something called "bipartisanship."
Bipartisanship in the mouths of Republican leaders is a lie, Senator, and you know it.
When Charles Grassley tells you he wants a bipartisan health care reform bill he is lying to your face, and you know it.
So I give you my solemn word and that of every member of my family: if this Democratic Congress, with a majority in both Houses and a Democratic President elected with a clear majority of the popular vote, does not pass and send to the President a universal health care/insurance reform bill that includes a strong, well-funded public option, not one of us will ever work for, contribute to, or vote for you or any other Democrat again.
And that is a promise that will be kept.
If that means the Republicans return to power, so be it. At least then we will know where we stand and will organize to fight another day with a party that deserves our trust.

Posted by: Chaim Rosemarin on August 21, 2009 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

It's not complicated -- take a firm stand in support of the already-articulated principles, stand up to obstructionist Republicans, and tell centrists that the days of slow-walking reform are over.

But how does this square with "Can't we all just get along?"

Posted by: TCinLA on August 21, 2009 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

[...] these are progressive supporters who disapprove of unhelpful concessions to conservatives and overly-cautious centrists. -- Steve Benen

Da, da, da (that's "yes, yes, yes", in socialist Russian). Duh... It took an effing *poll* to get to that conclusion????

The reason I've been unable to "fight for the President's plan" is that I know less and less what the plan *is* (*is there* one?) and, when I do get some clarification, it looks more and more like "the 4th rinse water" instead of what is needed.

At which point, I'm inclined to say "screw it; America's healthcare has been terminally ill ever since I've been here (Jan '73) and it's gonna remain so, past my tombstone time. Why should I get a hernia fighting for something that crappy? There's lace to be made, nice and unexacting"

I spent my childhood through early twenties in the "my party, right or wrong" incubator and didn't much like it *then*. At almost 60, I can indulge myself and stick to my principles come hell, high water, or Grassley/Baucus.

Posted by: exlibra on August 21, 2009 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget trials for treason,war crimes,fraud,theft and corruption on a scale not seen in this country EVER.

Posted by: par4 on August 21, 2009 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is screwing the pooch. He's failing on health system reform, just as he failed on the bank bailouts and on the overall stimulus. This man is not what he promised those people who elected him; it's therefore not surprising that his numbers are going into the dumper.

To those who pooh-pooh the idea of a one-term presidency, I sure hope Mr. Obama treasures all of those votes he'll get from Republicans in 2012 who are so grateful for his bipartisan and accommodating way. He may not get one from me.

Actually, it may be as simple as an instinct to shy from confrontation. Obama seems to be an ingratiator, a person who seemingly addresses an issue forthrightly, but who instead, through glibness and intelligence, manages to make every person in the room think he agrees with them.

And it may be as simple as Obama isn't qualified to hold the highest level executive office in the world. There may not be any real there there with our president. Straight talk and hard choices may be beyond him. Senators can screw around all they want; presidents ultimately have to shit or get off the pot.

Posted by: Nixon Did It on August 21, 2009 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

La Chaim!

I couldn't agree more with your post and passion at 7:10.
The need for a public option is almost a self-evident proof.

You can make all the rules in the world to control private insurance companies but they will:

a) Find a way around them...
b) Ignore them...
c) Simply wait for a republican administration to fail to enforce them...

If we have learned anything the last 8 years it is this: When republicans are in power they do as they please regardless the law. That's why the public option is so necessary. It is the safety valve they can't gunk up. Healthcare done without it, is a joke perpetrated on sheep.

Posted by: koreyel on August 21, 2009 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

koreyel says :
If we have learned anything the last 8 years it is this: When republicans are in power they do as they please regardless the law. That's why the public option is so necessary. It is the safety valve they can't gunk up. Healthcare done without it, is a joke perpetrated on sheep.

1 ) This health care doesn't take effect until 2013.
2 ) Whatever is passed via budget reconciliation WILL be cancelled via budget reconciliation.
3 ) If The people vote in the Republicans into Congress, The Senate, and the white house in a "2004" moment ...

Public Option and ALL healthcare passed via budget reconciliation WILL be ABORTED before it really even starts by Jan 25th.

Only possible way to ram it through and expect it to actually last is, to commit yourself to declaring the Republican party illegal. And any person who has EVER registered as a Republican a felon ineligible to vote for 10 years.

Posted by: Chrome on August 22, 2009 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

The bill sucks. You people on this page are in la la land. The NBC poll is an outlier anyway. Look at the other polls.

Posted by: Mom on August 22, 2009 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

Steve: "Get a good bill through Congress, and the polls will look far more encouraging for the administration. This isn't rocket science."

Maybe... until the monster starts getting litigated. The individual mandate provision obviously far exceeds federal powers. And the ability of govt (at any level) to set care standards flies in the face of the Roe v. Wade precedent.

In fact, once the litigating starts, there's not much to these bills that will pass Constitutional muster. Why expend so much political capital on something doomed to be stillborn?

Posted by: Charlie on August 22, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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