Are low-flying polls jamming President Obama’s much-vaunted political radar?

As the New Year dawns, Americans are feeling more upbeat – more confident in the future than they have been in months. Their president is not.

Mr. Obama started the year by tossing red meat into the lion’s den – making controversial and apparently illegal “recess appointments” to two hot-button agencies that immediately plunged the nation into political turmoil.

He next demanded serious cuts to our military – proposals that leave many Americans feeling somehow diminished. Is this our new reality? Reducing our military?

It is hard to imagine a worse beginning to 2012. More political warfare, more depressing consequences to our soggy economy. To top it off, Chief of Staff Bill Daley is quitting. Though Mr. Daley’s tenure was rocky, his presence in the Obama administration was initially welcomed by The Business Roundtable and by the Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations hoped the former bank exec could infuse the White House with some much-needed “real world” pragmatism, and some sympathy for the private sector. Daley was expected to help the president move towards the center in response to the huge GOP win in 2012. His abrupt exit confirms low expectations on that front.

In a year when the GOP will be lambasting President Obama for having put pet liberal projects like universal health care, green energy and pro-union workplace rulings ahead of growing our jobs market, Mr. Obama has molded his campaign with conflict and anger, tapping into the deep-seated resentments that he believes defines our nation. He will continue to blame our dawdling economy on the rich and on Congress.

This is not only the most depressing and meager of platforms, it isn’t smart.

A recent Gallup poll indicates that Americans are much more concerned about growing the economy than addressing the “wealth gap between rich and poor”. More revealing, more than half the country says it’s ok that “some people are rich and others are poor.” Consider: with all the careful nurturing donated by a sympathetic media, Occupy Wall Street barely occupies our thoughts. The campaign to lay our problems at the feet of our well-heeled uncaring one percent – enthusiastically endorsed by the president -- has fizzled. Obama is shadowboxing; this isn’t the fight he should be waging.

Instead, he should be working overtime to gin up the job gains that have cheered the nation. Unhappily, he has no clue how to do this. He is not aware, for instance, that his pessimism not only saps his popularity, it is bad for our economy. There’s a reason forecasters focus on consumer confidence. Rising optimism – the hallmark of Ronald Reagan’s tenure -- leads to higher spending and to job creation.

His approach has not helped his standing. After President Obama launched his populist “us versus them” speech in Kansas on December 6, his negative ratings moved higher and his approval numbers didn’t budge. Gallup’s figures show his approval ratings reaching their highest point in recent months between Christmas and New Year’s, when he gave the country a vacation from the rancor.

It is hard to imagine that voters will be satisfied with Mr. Obama’s campaign. It is some measure of his recent accomplishments that a two-month tax break extension was counted a major victory. Two months! Perhaps his self-awareness was more in focus when he described himself as an “underdog” coming into the 2012 race.

My advice to the president: get to work. Decide that addressing the country’s real needs is more important than slamming GOP stubbornness.

Lay out a specific plan for changing our tax policies and reining in our entitlements programs.

Reach out in a sincere way to Republicans – and challenge them to ignore the overture.

So far, Mr. Obama has left the hard work of building legislation up to Congress; he has positioned himself as a taster, rather than the cook. Maybe it’s time he donned the toque blanche.

After all, he seems to have time on his hands. Consider, for instance, Monday’s less-than-taxing schedule:

10:45: Daily Briefing
11:20: Meet with Senior Advisors
12:00: The President visits with NBA Champions Dallas Mavericks
7:00 pm: Campaign Event
8:00 pm: Another Campaign Event

Mr. Obama’s task is clear. If jobs are being demolished by increasing investment in technology, we better be sure we’re the ones providing that technology. If workers need a better education to secure their future, we cannot continue to graduate illiterate young people from our high schools. If entitlements programs have spun out of control and threaten all other government functions, we need to reform those programs.

These issues are pressing and immediate. They demand the full-out effort of our political officials of both parties. It is the job of President Obama to lead this country. Americans should demand nothing less.

Liz Peek is a FoxNews.com contributor and financial columnist who writes for The Fiscal Times. For more visit LizPeek.com.