Depending on who you talk to, diverse opinions can be found for President Barack Obama either having a spectacular first month or a pathetic one.
I would argue, that in some ways, it was both.
Obama clearly succeeded with the Stimulus Bill. Say what you want about the bill itself; to get the largest spending bill in American history passed in three weeks is a glorious accomplishment. But Mr. Obama also promised a new era in bipartisanship, and in that, he was an abject failure. Both his success and failures were not competely of his doing, but like all Presidents, he must take both the majority of the credit and the blame. And his future will also be determined by the success or failure of the Stimulus Bill and other bailouts that seem to be certain to be coming in the near future.
The American Public, on the other hand, is still very optimistic about the Obama Presidency. His support level is hovering in the mid 60% range. For higher than any other institution or person in the nation. And so far, they have been optimistic on his proposals; approximately 60% of people now support the passage of the stimulus bill. And considering all the bad news we have been hearing, we see polls showing that 75% of people are optimistic about where the country is going over the next four years. But if you put that in perspective, Obama’s popularity is in line historically. The average of presidential approval ratings since Eisenhower? 67%, using the ABC/Wash Post poll. Obama is hovering at 68%. And if use Gallup, he is actually lower than average, now at 59%. So, we can assume that he is hitting par for the course.
But I have to ask myself, where is this optimism and faith coming from? It certainly has not been coming from Obama himself. If anything, he has probably been one of the most pessimistic President’s on record; factually, he has been right, but emotional, he has been a downer. So, where does the public optimism arise from?
My gut is telling me there is more to this than meets the eye. Just look around you; isn’t the general feeling of the people you know slightly pessimistic right now? If that is the case virtually universally, then the optimism must come from somewhere. I would argue that it is hope. Hope that Obama can save us; save the economy; save jobs and homes. Part of that is seen within the polling; the partisan favorablility/unfavorability is marked. Republicans, naturally, have less faith that Obama is likely to solve our problems; Democrats have undying faith. What is more striking is the polling before, during, and after passage of the Stimulus bill. Before we knew the facts, people were very supportive; when the facts were being debated, the polling support plummented; and now, it is back up again. That supports my hypothesis that people are supporting the stimulus because they want it to work; whether they really believe it will work is up for debate. And of course, as usual, it depends which poll you are looking at. Rasmussen Reports has poll showing significant weakening in support for the stimulus plan over the past week. You wonder how there can be such divergence.
Of course, this could all be my simple rantings. But I do believe I have some basis in facts backing me up. Why there should be large swings in support for the stimulus package, unless my theory is correct, is beyond me. I think the support comes more less from specific policies than hope in the man himself, Obama. People, even Republicans, want him to succeed. But Democrats right now are hoping for success, because they generally believe in Obama’s ideology. Republicans want him to succeed, but have no faith that his liberal policies will succeed. I think that is where the divergence is really occurring.
Tonight’s pseudo State of the Union should show us a little more of what Mr. Obama has planned, and if his rhetoric will stay sobering or will return to the high minded rhetoric of the campaign. I predict the former. But I think Obama has missed an opportunity with the Stimulus Bill to give Republicans hope as well. If things rebound, then it won’t matter. But if things continue to get worse, then he will need all the support he can ge.