In the last two weeks we've seen President Obama endure treatment that he isn't exactly accustomed to: harsh criticism from his own party, a significant slip in the polls, and unfavorable headlines instead of glowing, inflated puff pieces. It seems that biting off more than he can chew when it comes to health care, government intervention into the private sector, and ballooning deficits have left him choking in what might be the first major sea change as his policy positions have started to eclipse his personal popularity.
Reality is creeping onto front pages everywhere. The Wall Street Journal recently reported "Rising Doubts Threaten to Overshadow Obama's Agenda;" Politico's above the fold headline trumpeted "Obama Health Care Plan Imperiled;" and the CBS News/New York Times poll inspired this headline in the paper: "Poll Finds Unease with Obama on Key Issues."
The Times specifically found "a distinct gulf between Mr. Obama's overall standing and how some of his key initiatives are viewed, with fewer than half of Americans saying they approve of how he has handled health care and the effort to save General Motors and Chrysler. A majority of people said his policies have had either no effect yet on improving the economy or had made it worse, underscoring how his political strength still rests on faith in his leadership rather than concrete results."
However, that faith is diminishing.
Though Obama's personal popularity hasn't plumetted (yet) but there are signs it's starting to suffer. According to last week's Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll, "Thirty two percent of the nation's voters now strongly approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-four percent (34 percent) strongly disapprove -- giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -2. That's the President's lowest rating to date and the first time the Presidential Approval Index has fallen below zero for Obama." Health care seems to be Obama's toughest challenge yet, and the impetus for the awakening. There are some political maneuvers that would that prevent politicians from being able to thread the needle and health care is one of them. If the public wasn't paying attention before, they are now as health care affects every single American. Obama's mantra might be change, but when it comes to individual's medical treatment, change isn't usually embraced. Especially change that's arrived this quickly, and is so costly and drastic.
The Obama administration has yet to tell us why the government can successfully run universal health care when we can't even run the socialized health programs we already have in place: Medicare (which is hemorrhaging money) and Medicaid (which is putting many states in the red). As new reports surface that Obama lacks the support in Congress to pass this behemoth bill, expect it -- and his popularity numbers -- to fall apart, and fast. Look for a White House that will begin to scale back expectations. Still, the lack of details and support will likely quickly trigger a collapse in confidence.
When the economy is in a recession, when spending is already out of control and when inflation is rising -- not even a popular president can ram through reforms at rapid pace. Without the protection from his own party, the support of a patient public and a complacent media with a man-crush, the politician who has been billed as "untouchable" will soon be revealed for what he is: an amateur who lacks the credible answers and ability to really lead. In other words, the honeymoon is almost over, history will point to health care as the reason.
Andrea Tantaros is a conservative commentator and columnist. Her commentary can be found at www.andreatantaros.com.