During hard-line debt ceiling negotiations last week, President Obama reportedly told House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) that he would take his case “to the American people on this.” On Wednesday, the American people weighed in: six in 10 don’t think the president is doing enough to compromise and solve the budding crisis, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The poll found that Obama's approval rating is at 47 percent, just a point above his all-time low, according to the same poll. Forty-two percent of respondents would hold GOPers responsible if a deal is not brokered compared to 36 percent who would blame Obama, a somewhat even split. Given the numbers, it’s fair to ask whether Obama is losing some ground in the spin wars.
Not according to the White House, which views the president’s low numbers through this prism: The debt debate is a highly-complicated subject that naturally creates anxiety among voters concerned about jobs and the economy. It’s only natural, then, that the president would suffer some blowback.
“I would disagree with the assessment that we’re losing this debate,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at his daily briefing on Wednesday, when asked about the poll. “There is overwhelming evidence Americans prefer a pragmatic, balanced and bipartisan deficit reduction package. ... The choices that need to be involved in creating such a grand bargain must be explained and sold. The president has spent a lot of time discussing his views in public.
“This is complex and arcane stuff in many ways,” Carney continued, “especially when you throw in phrases like ‘raise the debt ceiling.’ He feels that is absolutely his responsibility and he takes it seriously.”
The poll found that Americans appear to hold Obama’s Republican rivals in even lower regard when it comes to the debt negotiations. Still, the broader theme of the poll seemed clear: There are no winners. Large majorities of Americans are frustrated with both sides of the political aisle and all the leaders involved.
On Wednesday, Carney acknowledged that frustration at a time when the economy continues to struggle. “We are nowhere near where we need to be [on jobs]. The anxiety that creates is real and justifiable. As President, [Obama] is totally focused on making sure he does everything he can so that every American looking for a job can find one and he will not rest until we get to that point. That’s the way he looks at it; not what his job approval rating is.”
If anything, Carney added, the president shares the public’s frustration.
“One of the times he expressed his frustration,” Carney said, “was when he said, ‘Look, some of what is happening here is exactly why people get frustrated with Washington, why people get fed up. Here is the opportunity to show the opposite, to show that leaders can lead.’”
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