President Obama’s tough sales job on the economy

at 07:00 AM ET, 05/11/2012

Public opinion on President Obama’s top economic accomplishments during his first term in office is strongly divided in new polling done by the Washington Post and ABC News — a split that reflects the difficulty he will have running this fall solely on the strength of what he has done in office to improve the country’s financial standing.


People line-up to enter a fundraising event for President Obama on Thursday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Forty-seven percent of registered voters have a favorable opinion of Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, while 49 percent view it unfavorably. Forty-eight percent of registered voters regard increased regulation of the financial sector by the Obama Administration favorably, while 45 percent see it unfavorably.

The bailout of the auto industry is the most popular of the trio of economic accomplishments, with 49 percent of registered voters viewing it favorably as opposed to 44 percent who rate it unfavorably.

That none of Obama’s major economic proposals garner majority support has to be worrisome for the president and his political team, who recognize that the incumbent’s stewardship of the economy will be the critical issue for many undecided voters in this election.

While Obama has already begun the effort to raise questions in voters’ minds about former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s approach to the struggling economy — the thrust of the Obama argument is that his opponent wants to go backward, not forward — that negative message alone may not be enough to convince undecided voters to give the incumbent another four years.

For Obama to win a second term, he will almost certainly have to pair the “Romney is wrong” message with an “I was right” message — proving that some of the policies he put in place have begun to make things better.

The stimulus is clearly a dead end in that regard. Just 44 percent of electorally critical independents see the legislation in a favorable light, while 50 percent regard it unfavorably.

Interestingly, the stimulus also draws the most divergent responses from the two party bases. Seventy-four percent of Democrats view it favorably, and 80 percent of Republicans regard it unfavorably. That, of course, likely has more to do with the message wars around the issue than what the stimulus law actually does (or doesn’t do).

Both the regulation of the financial sector (51 percent) and the auto bailout (52 percent) garner majority support among independents, although neither is winning such a large majority that would make running on it a no-brainer for Obama.

The campaign seems to have decided that its best bet in terms of a positive economic message is the auto bailout; it was mentioned in the first 60-second positive ad the campaign ran and is now featured in its latest commercial.

But, even in those ads, the challenge of selling a positive economic message at a time of ongoing economic anxiety is apparent. “We’re not there yet,” says the ad’s narrator. “It’s still too hard for too many. But we’re coming back.”

Selling that comeback will be central to Obama’s chances this fall. And these poll numbers suggest it will be no easy sell.

Obama fundraises off gay marriage position: The Obama campaign appeared to try and raise money off the president’s embrace of gay marriage on Thursday.

The Obama campaign sent supporters a text message with the following missive: “If you’re proud of our president, this is a great time to make a donation to the campaign.” It then provided a link to help them donate money.

It’s not clear that the “proud” reference was made in connection with the gay marriage switch, but logic would suggest that’s the case.

Romney’s campaign said Thursday that it would be inappropriate to raise money off the issue.

“You know, I don’t think the matter of marriage is really a fundraising matter either for the president — it’s certainly not for me. I don’t know what our figures look like,” Romney told Fox News. “I hope the issue as tender and sensitive that the marriage issue is not a source of fundraising for either of us.”

Fixbits:

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is the favorite of congressional insiders to be Romney’s running mate — by a long shot.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks to Iowa business leaders.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoes a health care exchange law.

Christie also assures that he won’t be endorsing same-sex marriage any time soon.

Sarah Palin endorses Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz (R).

The House Franking Commission has cleared Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) of any wrongdoing after the Senate candidate’s district mail wound up going statewide, but former senator George LeMieux’s (R) campaign is not impressed.

NARAL president Nancy Keenan is stepping down., saying it’s time for younger anti-abortion activists to take over.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) joins Obama in supporting gay marriage.

Must-reads:

Mitt Romney’s prep school classmates recall pranks, but also troubling incidents” — Jason Horowitz, Washington Post

Gay marriage: The ‘unthinkable’ became reality, for some” — David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

For Obama, gay marriage stance borne of a long evolution” — Peter Wallsten and Scott Wilson, Washington Post

Jindal May Be the Answer to Romney’s VP Question” — Scott Conroy, Real Clear Politics

John Edwards sought to seal political future while campaign fizzled, ex-aide testifies” — Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post

 
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