President Obama began a three-day bus tour of the Midwest on Monday following the news of his lowest poll numbers ever. According to Gallup poll findings, his approval rating dropped to 40 percent from Aug. 8-14 and during that period, hit a low of 39 percent for Aug. 11-13. The dismal numbers are in part a result of his bruising debt-ceiling battle with congressional Republicans that has the American public angry with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. If Obama learned one thing from the experience, it’s that when he tries to engage voters in what’s going on, they tend to agree more with him.
And that’s exactly what he did at a town hall style meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, the first stop of his tour.
"I'm here to enlist you in a fight," said Obama, shirtsleeves rolled up and ready to rumble. "We are here to fight for the future of our country. And that’s a fight we are going to win."
Although the White House insists that the tour is official business, and not a campaign trip as Republicans have charged, the president did take aim at the candidates aiming to replace him, citing the eight who said in last week’s debate that they would refuse to support a deal that includes $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in increased revenues.
“None of them would take it. Think about that. I mean, that’s just not common sense,” he said.
Obama also placed the blame for the public’s frustration firmly at congressional Republicans’ feet, accusing them of playing politics and calling on voters to make them stop.
“You’ve got to send a message to Washington that it’s time for the games to stop, it’s time to put country first,” Obama said. “If you can do the right thing, then folks in Washington have to do the right thing. And if we do that, there is not a problem that we face that we cannot solve.”
David Bositis, a political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies, said that Americans’ anger at Washington lawmakers won’t subside until there have been four or five months of solid job growth.
“Remember, 90 percent of people who want a job have a job, but even they’re feeling a great deal of anxiety, as if they could lose their job at any time or are just one step away from catastrophe,” Bositis said. “That’s not going to change until the economy starts settling down.”
Obama can eventually improve his poll numbers by casting himself as less extreme, non-ideological and willing to compromise, Bositis says. He also believes that when people see the contrast between him and Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates, they will view the president more favorably.
(Photo: AP Photo/Nati Harnik)