Between July 20 and July 30, President Obama was a busy man, barely out of the public eye while campaigning furiously for his health care initiative. He did four town hall events, spoke at two hospitals, delivered a radio address, was interviewed on two network TV news shows, and held a prime time press conference--all devoted to promoting his health care plan. On this issue as on no other, Obama personally took his case to the people.
Something else occurred during that time frame. The president's job approval rating fell 9 points, from 61 percent to 52 percent in the Gallup Poll. This was an unusually precipitous decline from which Obama hasn't recovered. In mid-August, after more weeks of barnstorming for his health care program, his approval rating remained in the low 50s. Only Bill Clinton among recent presidents had a lower approval after seven months in office.
For Obama, there's still worse news. Not only has he lost ground, but public support for his health care proposal has collapsed to the point that a majority of Americans prefer no reform at all to his plan. And the more he stumps for it, the less support it attracts. Rather than a peripheral phenomenon, the noisy opposition in congressional town hall meetings turns out to be a reflection of the deep national suspicion of Obamacare.
Two conclusions are inescapable. The first is that Obama is not Mr. Persuasive, a compelling orator like FDR, swaying public opinion with his words. Quite the contrary, he has failed
to sustain public backing for his economic stimulus package, his decision to shut down Guantánamo, his proposed spending, the takeover of General Motors, bailouts in general, and now health care reform. (continues here)