Last week in the OOTD feature, we noted that the daily economic briefing that the White House announced Barack Obama received at the beginning of his term in office has “slowly peter[ed] out,” as The Hill reported. Interestingly, the news didn’t get much traction despite the relentlessly negative news about the US economy over the last couple of months, but that may change. ABC’s Mary Bruce reports that Mitt Romney has picked this up as a new attack line against Obama:
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney pounced on the scheduling change earlier this week. “If I’m President of the United States there will not be a day that I’m not being briefed on and thinking about bringing American jobs back to America and make America the number one job creator in the world. For me it’s everything you can do. Every lever you can pull, which is taxes, trade policies, energy policies, rule of law, good schools, and a government that doesn’t spend more money than it takes in,” he said in Derry, N.H.
The in-person economic briefing made a return to the president’s schedule yesterday, as a late morning addition. It was the first such meeting in more than a month. However, today it is nowhere to be seen on the agenda.
The White House has offered a mildly Orwellian response. Despite Robert Gibbs’ clear statement in January 2009 that Obama specifically requested and would receive daily, in-person briefings on the economy as a priority on par with national security, Jay Carney now says that there never was a commitment to daily economic briefings, Winston:
Asked about the disappearing act, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters last week that the in-person economic briefing “happens occasionally, it doesn’t happen all the time. And I think that was always the case.” …
“The President asked that this be added each day to his schedule, as the country is in the midst of an economic crisis and an economic emergency. And he felt it was important that each day he receive the most up-to-date information as it relates to the economy, as we put together an economic reinvestment and recovery plan, as well as future financial stability packages, to ensure that our economy gets moving again,” Gibbs said in January 2009.
Clearly, occasional in-person briefings were not “always the case.” The White House trumpeted those briefings as a way to portray Obama as in charge and keenly interested in economic results. Reading a memo once a day doesn’t exactly depict an engaged executive.
This could be a big problem for Obama if he starts appearing to be disengaged. According to Gallup polls stretching back years now, Americans are much more concerned about economic matters than anything else. According to the latest results, 60% now believe that the economy and joblessness are the most important issues of the day, up from 57% four weeks ago — and the number of people naming at least one economic issue as most pressing has risen to a two-year high:
One reason these results may not have changed much over the past month is that, at 72%, the overall percentage of Americans naming at least one economic issue as the nation’s most important problem is near the upper limit Gallup has recorded since 1991 when Gallup began compiling “net” economic and non-economic figures. The major exception to this is the few months following the Wall Street economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 when the figure was closer to 80%, reaching 86% in February 2009.
At the same time, satisfaction has dropped to almost a year-long low:
Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the country fell to 20% in early June from 26% at the start of May. Seventy-eight percent of Americans are now dissatisfied with the nation’s direction, according to a June 9-12 Gallup poll.
The six-percentage-point decline in Americans’ satisfaction with the country’s direction mirrors a 10-point drop in Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index over the past month, falling from -25 in Gallup Daily tracking for May 2-8 to -35 for the week ending June 12.
More generally, shifts in Americans’ satisfaction with the country have closely paralleled changes in Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index over the past decade, suggesting that economic perceptions have been a key determinant of Americans’ broader view of the country’s direction.
In other words, Americans are engaged on this topic, even if Obama doesn’t appear to be himself. It’s an excellent point of attack for Romney and the other Republican candidates to replace Obama in 2012. If you’re surprised to see Romney leading in the attack, well, you may not have been paying attention to Monday night’s debate.