A new Gallup poll concludes that President Obama is the most polarizing first-year president since the organization started surveying job approval in 1953, but the White House fired back Monday that the results are not a reflection of the president or the White House but of Washington's partisanship. And White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the country is getting tired of it.
"I would say I think that goes to the gamesmanship that gets played in this town, that the people throughout this country are simply tired of watching," Gibbs said at the daily press briefing.
The poll shows a 65 percentage point gap between job approval ratings of President Obama between Democrats and Republicans. Gallup has Obama's approval rating by Democrats at 88%, and only 23% by Republicans. According to the organization it is "easily the largest for any president in his first year in office, greatly exceeding the prior high of 52-points for Bill Clinton." The poll is based on the average for the year of 1,000 adults surveyed almost every day.
President Obama may have been reading the poll himself, making a point of talking about working together during an event at the White House celebrating the Los Angeles Lakers and their win in the NBA championships last year. L.A. Lakers coach and former player Phil Jackson is famous for creating books about working together as a team, and Obama made it clear that's a pointer Washington could take.
"I was hoping that coach, you were going to bring, some books, for republicans and democrats in congress, maybe to get them to start playing like a team together?" Obama said.
The argument that President Obama has not been as bi-partisan as he said he would be has been making the rounds in Washington recently. Last week, which marked one year in office for the President, republicans said Obama talked a good game about working with democrats, but hadn't made it happen.
"I think President Obama suffers in that he ran as a post-partisan figure, and he's turned out to be a very partisan figure," said Ed Gillespie, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and former head of the Republican National Committee. "He's turned out to continue being a political candidate too often, rather than a President who accepts responsibility and stands up and says here are the problems, I'm going to fix them."
Republicans cite the stimulus, health care and other economic woes as examples of the President not willing to work with them on legislation, but Democrats say the President is willing to work with the other side aisle.
"I think one of the big disappointments for everybody in the first year was that the President really did want to bring in a new post-partisan era and by and large the republicans didn't want to play," says Bruce Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council and a former White House staffer under Bill Clinton. "We can have a bitter partisan debate about whether that was because Republicans were rooting for him to fail or because they couldn't find issues to work together on. The President was right to want to move in that direction and it's in the long term interests of Republicans and the country to find ways to work together."
Even if the administration doesn't think President Obama is polarizing, his effect on the 2009 gubernatorial campaigns in New Jersey and Virginia and the Senate campaign in Massachusetts, all losses by Democrats is being felt at the White House. On the heels of the loss last week in Massachusetts, President Obama has decided to add David Plouffe, his former campaign manager, back into the mix of things for the November 2010 races. But Gibbs insists, Plouffe is not running things. "This is not [Plouffe] taking over every campaign in 2010 …This is about him working internally on strategy with the folks that are already here."