Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is This Year 1 of the Clinton Administration Again?

Today is day 188 of the Obama Administration. He has served 12.9% of his elected term. As health care languishes and his poll numbers have started (continued?) to drop off, it begs the question -- is this a replay of the Clinton Administration?

Health Care
Health Care reform is stalled in congress, no two ways about it. The possibility of passage of a bill prior to the August recess looks to be essentially nil. Blue Dogs in the House and moderates in the Senate are concerned about re-election and worried about the cost. The insurance industry is running wall-to-wall commercials opposing reform. Poll numbers on the subject are not particularly encouraging. Feel a little like 1993?

I will update the charts when I return from Australia but there is no doubt that President Obama's numbers have continued to fall during the month of July. Perhaps most significantly, July 24th marked the first poll release by a non-partisan organization that showed the President with disapproves that exceeded his approves -- the Rasmussen poll had him at -2% (49% approve, 51% disapprove). While this is only one data point and the Rasmussen poll has fairly consistently shown his numbers lower than other major polls, it is still significant in that it opens at least the possibility for opposing politicans that opposing the President may be the popular thing to do. Feeling like 1993 yet?

Stepping In It
President Obama has been rapidly trying to walk back this past week a statement he made that police had "acted stupidly" in arresting Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., which has reopened national wounds around the interreleated of race, profiling and police conduct. President Obama's words were ironically self-describing and it is the most significant verbal gaffe he has mdae since coming on the national stage. Gays in the military, 1993, anyone?

What's Different
The President HAS signed into law one major piece of legislation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- President Clinton failed to get his much more modest stimulus. The President has also signed significant legislation expanding children's health care, changing pay discrimination law and protecting consumer holders of credit cards. The bulk of the economic recovery is likely to come and that should improve the President's numbers, particularly if people associate the recovery with the stimulus bill.

Still, it isn't hard for me to see a scenario where Health Care fails, unemployment stays high and the GOP wins huge gains in 2010 (although I still can't conceive of a scenario where they could retake the Senate.) President Obama isn't looking much like a new kind of politician these days. Those transformational speeches are a distant memory. The time for leadership is now.

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