Does this sound familiar? It should:
U.S. President Barack Obama told House Democrats Thursday his State of the Union address will focus on job creation, education and energy independence.
Speaking at the House Democratic Issues Conference in Leesburg, Va., the president repeated a theme from his 2012 re-election campaign, that “our economy succeeds and our economy grows when everybody is getting a fair shot and everybody is getting a fair shake and everybody is playing by the same rules.”
“Because I believe that is a growth agenda — not just an equity agenda, not just a fairness agenda — that is a growth agenda,” he said.
“And that means that what you’ll hear from me next week, I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America,” Obama said.
Is federal gun control part of his growth agenda, because that seems to be what we’re spending the most time on right about now. Or, maybe the comedy of errors that is the Hagel pick? No, he’s just focusing on exactly what he wants to focus on and then pretending that it has a ton to do with creating jobs, which is what he’s been doing for the last four years. In the absence of an actual growth agenda that produces, well, growth, we’ll just tack on $7 trillion more in debt, because investments. You can’t pivot to focusing on jobs this much unless things have been taking precedence over jobs, from which you must pivot.
I look forward to learning how shrinking the economy is actually a keen, new innovation in a growth agenda.
But let’s look at the audience President Obama will be addressing Tuesday night.
Twice as many voters believe the country is weaker, rather than stronger, since Obama took office. In addition, by a 52-40 percent margin voters think the worst is yet to come on the economy.
That “worst to come” number is slightly better than 2009, when the crisis was at its initial height, but worse than 2012. But here’s the bigger problem number for Obama:
During recent budget negotiations, Obama reportedly said he doesn’t believe the government has a spending problem. Most voters — 83 percent — disagree. That includes most Republicans (97 percent), independents (87 percent) and Democrats (69 percent).
In addition, out of 13 issues tested, more voters are “extremely” concerned about government spending than any other issue. Moreover, nearly all voters are either extremely (32 percent) or very concerned (52 percent) about spending.
Obama is fond of saying the public is with him on any issue he happens to be talking about at the moment, even when they’re not. On the central mission of his second term— spend more to make the economy grow or something—a whopping 17 percent of Americans are with him. The mandate may have been exhausted after he got his tax hike on people making $400,000 and up. As Chris Stirewalt writes:
But as we careen from one fiscal crisis to the next, Republicans know that voters are still on their side when it comes to the question of cutting versus spending. The next fight over looming automatic spending cuts looks like a good one for the GOP since Obama wants lawmakers to act to raise taxes again in order to prevent the spending cuts. He’s seeking a doubly unpopular plan while simply by not acting and allowing the cuts to occur, Republicans will be on the side of public sentiment.
The reason is that voters disagree with the president’s economic approach. They always have and likely always will. Do recall that Romney beat Obama in exit polls on the issue of the economy, the number one issue for voters last year.
As Obama tries to expand his mandate to spending and the economy, he will learn the difference between a choice and a mandate.
I was on Fox News this morning with a Democratic strategist who looked at these poll numbers and had to admit (paraphrased), “Well, yes, it has been a terrible couple of years and the American people are exhausted and depressed and pessimistic. Who can blame them. Washington is dysfunctional, leadership in Washington has failed, and things are very, very bad, and somehow this has nothing to do with the man who purports to lead Washington.”
Her reasoning is, of course, that Obama would have been a resounding success if it hadn’t been for those meddling Republicans…who didn’t have control over anything for two years of his first term and now only control one half of one House of Congress.
President Obama is the one who says look to Washington for solutions. His inaugural address heralded Washington’s ability to fix every social problem we encounter almost to the exclusion of all else— sorry, churches, civic groups, non-profits, and individuals. He is the one who insists massive new spending and massive new regulations are needed in every nook and cranny of business and personal life in the country in order to make the country run humanely. He is the one who asked us to turn our eyes upon him as he healed the cantankerous capital and brought everyone together to accomplish his audacious goals. He and the federal government, he says, are the only thing standing between us and poisoning our grandparents and children with tainted calcium chews and ice cream.
If he can’t manage to succeed at central planning when in total control of both parts of Congress and fails to an even greater degree when there are members of an opposing party occupying just half of the seats in one house of Congress, tell me, isn’t there a flaw in his plan?
Hence, we pivot. Again.
Update: So, maybe that triumphant, unabashedly liberal inaugural address that hardly mentioned jobs wasn’t the greatest idea after all? But as usual, it’s not Obama’s fault for giving a speech that barely mentioned the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds. It’s those famously hostile reporters who got it wrong:
Job One for President Obama in his State of the Union address will be to convince Americans that his top priority is their jobs.
White House officials tell me they feel stung by coverage of the inaugural address. Reporters highlighted the president’s left-leaning stances on immigration, gun control, climate change and gay and women’s rights. Obama’s aides argue that he devoted more inaugural address language to the economy, jobs and the deficit than all other issues combined.
Still, the perception remains that Obama lost focus on the economy — the top issue in the minds of most voters.
So look for an address Tuesday tilted heavily toward policies pledging action on joblessness, growing the economy and expanding the middle class, White House officials said Friday. Other issues will be discussed, aides said, but there will be no mistaking that Obama’s paramount concern is the economy.
Though Obama’s team would dismiss its significance, Democratic allies took notice of Quinnipiac University’s new poll that showed Obama’s approval rating dropping since his election, from a 53 percent approval rating in December to 46 percent.
The perception came from hearing the actual words of the speech, not some inaccurate interpretation.