“The consensus has been that for all his problems, Obama is so skilled a politician — and the eventual GOP nominee so flawed or hapless — that he’d most likely be reelected.

“Don’t buy into it.

“This breezy certitude fails to reckon with how weak his fundamentals are a year out from the general election. Gallup pegs his approval rating at a discouraging 42 percent, with his standing among independents falling 9 points in four weeks…

“Where’s the bright spot? Hard to see. Obama has few, if any, domestic achievements that enjoy broad public support. No one assumes employment, growth or housing prices to pick up much, if at all — something Obama is essentially powerless to change. And the political environment and electoral map are significantly tougher than in 2008, especially in true up-for-grabs states…

“Privately, however, Obama’s team is concerned about the factors beyond its control, talking of an imminent need to retool their economic message and strategy heading into 2012. Absent the president’s ability to defy political gravity, one Obama adviser conceded, ‘The numbers add up to defeat.'”

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“Barack Obama has a communications problem. His reputation for eloquence and argument is highly exaggerated​—​at best. Speech after speech, appearance after appearance, the president has failed to persuade the undecided that his views are correct, much less win over opponents. You can blame partisan polarization, the institutional limitations of the presidency, the diversity of new media, whatever. The truth is, the more Obama talks, the worse he performs.

“Consider the president’s economic message. The administration’s failure to reduce unemployment significantly has left Obama struggling to convince the country that, as bad as things are, they could be worse. ‘A lot of the problems we face right now, like slow job growth and stagnant wages, these were problems that were there even before the recession hit,’ he told the National Conference of La Raza last week. ‘These challenges weren’t caused overnight; they’re not going to be solved overnight.’

“Talk about a downer. The president’s excuses, though, have made no difference to the 57 percent of Americans who disapprove of his handling of the economy in the July ABC News/Washington Post poll. Or the 67 percent that say the country is on the wrong track in the July NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey. Obama can’t change their minds.”

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“HUFFINGTON: But the point is that the most important number going into 2012 is going to be the unemployment number. And there is absolutely no prospect at the moment that would make us believe that unemployment number is going to be below nine percent. Now that is really the greatest fear for the White House. And of course Mitt Romney again and again is talking about the failure of the President to produce jobs, and he doesn’t have to tell us how he would have done it. He just has to point out to that failure. And when the President again and again talks about how, I mean, I went through and looked since 2009 how many times he has said, ‘Jobs priority number one,’ ‘The sustained focus of this administration,’ ‘The relentless focus of this administration,’ ‘We’re pivoting to jobs.’ Nobody believes it any more.”

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“Obama’s backroom strategy destroyed his leverage. As John Podhoretz noted in the Post column I linked to earlier today, Obama’s inability to either work out a deal in private or rally public support behind any particular plan resulted in a deal that left out the one thing he had demanded, any tax hikes. And indeed, whether or not the Hill’s account is accurate, it is telling that Obama insisted that his entire role be performed offstage where the public couldn’t verify what he was doing or where he stood except by taking the word of him and his spokesmen. That amounted to a total surrender of the ‘bully pulpit,’ despite Obama’s frequent appearances to repeat his vague appeals for a ‘balanced’ approach – Republicans could see that he wasn’t willing to take any stand for which he’d be held accountable, and so they inferred, correctly, that he’d never stand ground he’d taken in private if he feared to take it in public. His silence on the specifics rendered him weak and vulnerable, and ultimately impotent. He became the man who’d take any deal, so of course he got none of what he asked for.

“That part, no amount of spin about the blow-by-blow of the closed-door negotiatons can conceal.”

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“Progressives and other peeved supporters of President Obama who aren’t happy with the all-cuts-no-revenue deal to raise the debt ceiling need to see it as the beginning of a very long (and necessary) process to get the nation’s fiscal house in order. But it also means that the president will have to be more aggressive in his use of presidential power. In short, I want him to use everything the bully pulpit has to offer to get what he wants, including shutting down the government if he must. After what we just went through to avert economic catastrophe, padlocking Washington ain’t no big thing…

“In the coming fights over the next budget, unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts, I want Obama to show the Republican Party in general and the Tea Party in particular that he isn’t afraid to out-crazy the crazies. If that means vetoing bills, taking the fight to individual districts, shutting down the government, so be it.”

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