Published July 22, 2013
“I don't usually write emails like this…”
-- Senior White House Adviser Dan Pfeiffer in a mass email touting a series of economic speeches Obama will give in the weeks to come.
President Obama’s poor job approval ratings have become as much a part of late July as sweet corn and a fire sale on the Cubs’ roster. But this time, Team Obama has a plan to prevent the second-half slump that played out in every year of his presidency.
Maybe. But with his Real Clear Politics Average approval rating down to 45.8 percent today, massive battles ahead and no ready solutions to what’s weighing him down, it would take something pretty remarkable to let the president defy his own gravity.
Team Obama’s answer, however, is to have the president talk more. Power Play has discussed before the over-reliance of the president and his team on presidential oratory when it comes to corralling a restive electorate. Especially when Americans have heard him talk since 2007, there’s just not much he can say at this point that will get people’s attention.
Obama proved on Friday with highly personal remarks on his own experiences as the son of an African father that he can still elicit hosannas from the same liberal intelligentsia that launched and succored his national political career. If NBC’s Sunday show panel was any gauge, “This Town” is still all agog over the remarks. David Brooks called it “a symphony of indignation, professionalism, executive responsibility, personal feeling.”
But beyond the Acela Corridor, the president is not causing many tingles. As in previous years of his presidency, his esteem in the eyes of the public is wilting in the summer heat. In years past, it was easy to see how Obama’s decline paralleled the annual economic downturn. But this year, the economy is still making progress. Even if Americans remain unsatisfied with the new normal and “uncertainty” remains the economic watchword, there isn’t the urgent threat of a double-dip recession or huge layoffs to blame for a 7-point swing since the spring.
The blame now rests with scandals at home, Washington dysfunction, reversals for his Middle East doctrine and problems with the implementation of Obama’s signature health law. But the root problem is still the same: missed expectations. Voters, having rewarded Obama with another term, were looking for more than a continuation of past problems with the addition of some new ones.
The president tonight will meet again with the top donors and activists for his permanent campaign operation, Organizing for Action. The focus of the group reflects Obama’s changing fortunes, post-re-election. When Obama first spoke to his patrons this spring, the buzz topic was pushing through a new law to legalize those in the country illegally. The emphasis now is to make sure that a law passed 40 months ago actually goes into effect.
The president is getting ready for another trip abroad for an economic summit in Russia – home to the Moscow airport TGI Friday’s most valued customer of the decade, Edward Snowden – and then a vacation with his family on Martha’s Vineyard.
But before he goes, Obama will deliver a major speech on what he says should be the priority of the federal government: broadening the middle class. The president is returning here to the central cause of his presidency, which has always been using the trauma of the Panic of 2008, increased domestic spending and higher taxes on top earners to effect a reduction in economic disparity.
This is Obama looking to wave away what his team considers the “unworthy” political process that focuses on things like abuses at the IRS and Department of Justice, Obamacare popping at the seams, and the dark turn of American-backed Islamists in the Middle East and other frustrations. These things are temporary difficulties in the eyes of Obama’s committed core. “Bumps in the road,” as the president would say.
Obama is going to fly up to 30,000 feet to urge the press corps and official Washington to return their focus to what he thinks worthy. But on the ground, the real battles are over the opening of the Obamacare health-insurance entitlement as well as spending and debt ahead of what may be a government shutdown.
Practical solutions like shaking the IRS by the scruff of its neck or doing a deal with Republicans to delay the individual mandate could change the narrative nationally and show Obama to be a man of action, not a purveyor of word clouds.
Obama has 71 days in which to contest two major battles. If he wants to win them, he’d better get busy doing and spend less time giving “major” addresses.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.