The president heads for the campaign trail, but where there is work to be done he’s never seemed so feeble.

House Speaker John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) (Brendan Smialowskia / AFP / Getty Images)

McClatchy reports:

Stung by Americans’ persistent worries about the economy and a capital gripped by controversy and gridlock, President Barack Obama is suffering his lowest job approval numbers in nearly two years, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll. . . . Obama will deliver the first of a series of speeches Wednesday aimed at offering his vision for boosting economic growth, even as the new poll found that just 37 percent of the respondents approved of his handling of the economy, while 56 percent disapproved.

Overall, the poll found Obama’s job approval at 41 percent last week, a sharp drop from April’s 50 percent and his worst showing in the poll since 39 percent in September 2011. Forty-eight percent disapproved in the latest poll, up from April’s 46 percent.

But with the purpose of the speeches not to roll out new solutions but recycle rhetoric, there is no sign the president will address the underlying reality of his second term: He’s run out of policy ideas and political capital.

The irony here is that there are available avenues to recapture some momentum without giving up on his “signature achievement” (Obamacare) or his quest for higher taxes.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and the rest of the House GOP leadership take the opportunity to offer what they call “highlighting three immediate steps the President could take to improve the economy and strengthen the middle class.” These include approval of the Keystone pipeline, passage of the House’s job skills training bill and “environmentally responsible offshore energy development.” The measures are all well-aimed both because they have bipartisan support and because they are consistent with Big Labor’s objectives. The sole reason these aren’t already law is the president’s refusal to take on extreme environmentalists — and, one suspects, the desire to keep flogging the Republicans.

Republicans suspect more base-rallying antics from the president. The speaker put out a statement today warning:

At issue is whether the president will again threaten a government shutdown unless Congress provides him higher taxes on small businesses to replace the deficit reduction produced by the automatic spending cuts – sequestration – that are currently in place.

You see, last month, through a series of Statements of Administration Policy, the president announced that he would not sign ANY spending bills this year unless sequestration spending cuts are eliminated – and replaced with his plan for higher, job-destroying taxes.

That didn’t work out earlier in the year when the president tried to scare the country with sequestration cuts. Now that they are in place without triggering a national meltdown can he really convince voters that those must disappear in exchange for more taxes?

One has the sense that most everything in the second term is tactical, not substantive. Turn the tables on the GOP. Figure out how to explain inaction against Syria. Keep the base enraged. It supposes such gambits can recapture the House in 2014, whereupon he can enact his dream agenda. Instead, it only seems to confirm this is a president in decline.

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.