Getting His Sea Legs Back
by Mark Riley
posted Feb 16 2012 11:03AM
This week, new polling and other data would seem to show President Barack Obama is starting to regain the mojo many thought he lost in the recent past. At the root of this resurgence, obviously, is the economy. Unemployment is trending down, the stock market is trending up. It looks like people are finally starting to buy the president's vision. A New York Times/CBS News poll says half those surveyed approve of his performance.
Just as important, the same poll says those who are optimistic about the economy outnumber those who feel the other way by double digits. Just last September, pessimists outnumbered optimists by three to one. With the deal on the payroll tax cut extension all but done, those who follow politics see some shifts in the winds. President Obama has played hardball with congressional Republicans, just as many on his progressive flank have hoped he would. Only days after signalling big problems in the tax cut extension, Republicans suddenly decided that co-operation was in their interest.
There's no doubt that a stagnating unemployment rate, rising gas prices, or other economic setbacks could strengthen his opponents and hurt his momentum. Yet Barack Obama wasn't even seriously damaged by the GOP's attempt to make hay over the latest battle in the culture wars, the fight over contraception. Next stop for the Republican presidential hopefuls is sure to be the defense budget. Yet even here, the president has an advantage in that some congressional Republicans have advocated some of the same downsizing he proposes.
If there's one true indicator that Barack Obama again firing on all cylinders (pardon the metaphor) it's this. Mitt Romney had to return to Michigan, the state where he grew up, and explain why he thought two of the nation's three big carmakers should simply be allowed to go under. In an op-ed piece, he said he favored a managed bankruptcy, which is precisely what his president engineered. Beyond that, imagine having to tell people in a city like Detroit that helping the auto industry, which saved over 160,000 jobs, was the wrong thing to do.
Let's hope the good news keeps coming.