The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll is not exactly a resounding endorsement for the Obama administration’s “most-reasonable-man-in-the-room” strategy:
On the deficit, which was at the heart of the pitched battle over the debt ceiling earlier this summer, Obama has reaped no dividends for trying to produce a compromise agreement with Republicans. Six in 10 disapprove of Obama’s work on the federal budget deficit, a percentage that is relatively unmoved in recent surveys and basically where it was a year ago.
Ouch. Also, Obama’s job approval rating is at an all-time low and more than 60 percent disapprove of how he’s handling the economy, and twice as many say his economic policies are making things worse as say they’re making things better. The Republicans aren’t faring much better, but they’re not faring much worse, either.
The Obama administration’s theory of the case was that it would end over backwards to appear reasonable and, in doing, convince Americans that it was the Republicans, rather than the White House, that was holding up action in Washington. The theory was wrong, or at least incomplete. Voters may dislike Republican intransigence, but they’re no fonder of Democratic ineffectualness.
The Obama administration needs to change strategy, and that will require more than a speech. It will require an actual strategy to change what’s happening in Washington. One option, as I’ve pointed out previously, is to refuse to sign anything coming out of the supercommittee that doesn’t include a substantial jobs component. That sets up a conflict the media can cover for a few months, and a contrast that at least identifies the Obama administration with action on the country’s top priority, rather than polite failure on a secondary issue.