Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In Obama we trust, at least more than the other guys

Yes, according to a new CNN/ORC international poll out a couple of days ago, the president's approval rating is nearing 50 percent:

According to the survey, 49% of Americans approve of the job Obama's doing in the White House, up five points from last month, with 48% saying they disapprove, down six points from mid-November. The 49% approval rating is the president's highest since May, when his number hit 54% thanks to a bounce following the killing of Osama bin Laden. Since then, in CNN polling, Obama's approval rating has hovered in the mid-40s.

"President Barack Obama's approval rating appears to be fueled by dramatic gains among middle-income Americans," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The data suggest that the debate over the payroll tax is helping Obama's efforts to portray himself as the defender of the middle class."

Obama's gains have come at the expense of the Republicans in Congress and the GOP in general. By a 50% to 31% margin, people questioned say they have more confidence in the president than in congressional Republicans to handle the major issues facing the country. Obama held a much narrower 44% to 39% margin in March.

One of the most consistent political themes for some time has been that Americans are not as critical of Obama for the weak economy as we might think. If they were, his approval ratings would surely be a lot lower. 

The GOP strategy was always going to be to attempt to paint Obama as a weak manager, incompetent and clueless. I suspect that what we are seeing is a significant and perhaps increasing number of Americans coming to the realization that no one was going to do a better job with the mess left behind by George W. Bush and that middle-class voters and others without a silver spoon up there ass are better off sticking with Obama, who is clearly more concerned about their interests than are the Republicans. 

On that point, the survey also says that:

The Democrats do particularly well among middle income Americans, while the Republicans win support only from the top end of the income scale.

It is worth noting that the president remains personally popular with three-quarters of Americans, indicating that they like the guy. It seems pretty simple. Who you gonna love? The guy you think cares out you.

This has to be driving Republicans crazy. They need voters to see our economic difficulties as Obama's fault. They need voters to believe that the best way out is a return to the same unchecked market principles that got us into trouble in the first place. 

Lawyers sometimes say that jurors, untrained in the law, will frequently be able to break down a very complicated case and offer the correct verdict. Voters, at their best, are often able to do the same thing. 

Obama didn't start the fire, but he's doing his best to put it out and start building again. Republicans want him to fail for the sake of narrow political gain, not for the good of the economy or the country.

Few people, even those who make a living trying to understand, fully grasp how we should manage the myriad forces at play to get the economy going again, but they know who they would rather be at the helm to try.

Under almost any other circumstance, the current employment numbers and other economic indicators would be a big problem for Obama, which would be true if the meaty part of the electorate thought the other guys had any answers that addressed their interests -- their middle-class interests. 

Like the old game show, this election may come down to one question: Who do you trust? If that's the question, Democrats may end up liking the answer. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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