President Obama’s Syria challenge, in one chart

September 4, 2013

President Obama on Tuesday won the backing of the top two Republicans in the House in his push for military action in Syria. But both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) made clear that the responsibility of pitching the plan to undecided or unconvinced members and Americans lies squarely with the president.

And that's going to be no small task.

"Now, it is the president’s responsibility to make his case to the American people and their elected representatives," said Bohener spokesman Brendan Buck. "Everyone understands that it is an uphill battle to pass a resolution, and the speaker expects the White House to provide answers to members’ questions and take the lead on any whipping effort."

Added Cantor: “Understanding that there are differing opinions on both sides of the aisle, it is up to President Obama to make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action, and I hope he is successful in that endeavor."

Here' what they are saying: Obama is going to have to be the salesman-in-chief on this. And he faces an uphill climb, a Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday shows.

Only about one in three Americans say Obama has explained clearly why the United States should launch airstrikes against the Syrian government. Even among Democrats, only about half are convinced Obama has clearly stated his case. And only one in four independents say he has done so, as the chart below shows.

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The Pew poll, like the Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday, shows opposition to a strike far outpacing support -- another reason Obama has his work cut out for him.

The president may have won the support of some key figures in Washington. But the challenge of winning over rank and file members and the larger American public is a big one, based on the current mood.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · September 4, 2013