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The Fix: Are liberals falling out of love with Obama?

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By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 21, 2010; 4:04 PM

In the wake of President Barack Obama's Oval Office address to the country last Tuesday, a narrative has been on the march: liberals, the people who served as the electoral backbone for his candidacy in 2008, have fallen out of love with the chief executive.

Jon Stewart took on the topic on his "Daily Show" -- detailing a series of campaign commitments from Obama on topics ranging from the closure of Guantanamo Bay to his attitude toward executive power and the comparing the actual policies' similarities to those policies put in place by former President George W. Bush. "What happened to Barry from the block," asked Stewart.

Two of MSNBC's primetime hosts -- Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow -- also expressed displeasure with the address, an unhappiness captured by Maddow's long sigh when asked to assess the speech.

And, even prior to Obama's speech last week, organized labor had tried to send a message to the Administration about the lack of movement for a progressive agenda by spending $10 million on an ultimately unsuccessful primary challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas.

The bickering over the Arkansas race -- a White House aide said labor had flushed $10 million down the toilet -- led AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to pronounce himself "very disappointed" with the back and forth.

Ross Douthat, in a column that ran this morning in the New York Times, summed up the liberal agita thusly:

"Many liberals look at this White House and see a presidency adrift -- unable to respond effectively to the crisis in the gulf, incapable of rallying the country to great tasks like the quest for clean energy, and unwilling to do what it takes to jump-start the economy."

Open and shut case, right? Not so fast.

A look at Obama's standing among both liberals and liberal Democrats in a series of national polls conducted by the Washington Post and ABC since the start of Obama's presidency shows little significant erosion in his numbers.

In the most recent Post/ABC survey, which was conducted earlier this month, 74 percent of self-identified liberals approved of the job Obama was doing as compared with 24 percent who disapproved. Those numbers were even stronger among liberal Democrats -- 85 percent of whom expressed approval for how Obama was handling the presidency.

Those numbers -- among liberals and liberal Democrats -- have fallen from Obama's high water mark around his 100th day in office but are remarkably consistent with his overall approval ratings for the entirety of 2010. (In 2009, Obama's approval among liberals averaged 86 percent while so far in 2010 in stands at 77 percent.)

The Post/ABC data isn't unique in showing a steady but very slight erosion for Obama among self-identified liberals over the past 18 months and little evidence of an increased level of disapproval of late.


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