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Obama's Vulnerability

A Commentary By Dick Morris

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

At last there is convincing evidence that Obama’s poll numbers may be descending to earth. While his approval remains high – and his personal favorability is even higher – the underlying numbers suggest that a decline may be in the offing. Even as he stands on his pedestal, the issue numbers under his feet are crumbling.

According to the Rasmussen Poll, more voters now trust Republicans than Democrats to handle the economy by a margin of 45-39. Scott Rasmussen notes that “this is the first time in over two years of polling that the GOP has held the advantage on this issue.” Last month, he had the Democrats holding a one point lead, but they lost it in June’s polling.

And the Democratic leads over Republicans on their core issues are also dropping. Particularly interesting is the Democratic decline over health care from an 18 point lead in May to only ten points now.

The Gallup Poll also confirms that the president’s personal ratings are high but the underlying data less so. While 67% of voters give Obama personal favorable ratings and 61% approve of his job performance (Rasmussen has his job approval lower, at 55%), they give him much lower ratings on specific issues.

Gallup shows Obama getting only 55% approval on handling of the economy (down from 59% in February) and found that only 45% approve of his handling of federal spending while 46% approve of his treatment of the budget deficit.

As it becomes clearer that the deficit caused by spending has landed us in a new economic crisis, entirely of Obama’s own making, his popularity and job performance are likely to drop as well.

The old recession – that the public says was caused by Bush – shows signs of winding down. But the new recession and/or inflation – triggered by Obama’s massive deficits – is just now coming upon us.

If Obama refuses to cut back on his spending/stimulus plans (despite convincing evidence that Americans are not spending the money), he has three options:

a) He can raise taxes which will trigger a deeper recession;

b) He can print money which will trigger huge inflation;

c) He can pay more interest to borrow money which will send the economy diving down again.

The blame for these outcomes will fall squarely on Obama’s deficit and spending policies. The fact that Americans are aware of these issues, and already disapprove of Obama’s performance on them, indicate that they will be increasingly receptive to blaming him for the “new” recession.

Interestingly, Obama’s polling is now the exact opposite of Clinton’s in the days after Monica. Back then, the president’s approval for handling specific issues was his forte while his job approval remained high but his personal favorability lagged twenty points behind. Ultimately, it is a politician’s performance on specific issues that determines his electability. Personal favorability withers in the face of issue differences. Obama is about to find out that you cannot rely on image to bolster your presidency when the underlying issues are crumbling.

All this data suggests that Obama might run out of steam just as he gets to his health care agenda. As unemployment mounts, month after month, and Obama’s claims of job creation (or savings) ring hollow, it is possible that he will not have the heft to pass his radical restructuring of the health care system. The automaton Democratic majority may pass it anyway, but it will be a one-way ticket to oblivion if they do.

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