Gallup: Captain Kickass lays an egg

Did Barack Obama’s insistence eight days ago that he wanted to find some asses to kick turn his polling numbers around on the Gulf spill?  Gallup surveyed over a thousand adults over the weekend, and the news isn’t good for the White House.  Instead of rallying to the Captain Kickass banner, 71% of Americans still believe that Obama hasn’t been tough enough on BP over the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and his approval rating on the spill remains underwater:

The majority of Americans (59%) say British Petroleum should pay for all financial losses resulting from the Gulf Coast oil spill, including wages of workers put out of work, even if those payments ultimately drive the company out of business. Seven out of 10 Americans (71%) say Obama has not been tough enough in his dealings with BP.

The results are from a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted June 11-13 as President Obama made a two-day trip to the Gulf area and prepared to speak to the nation on the oil spill situation Tuesday. …

The majority of Americans (53%) rate Obama’s handling of the spill as “poor” or “very poor,” compared with 81% who give BP the same rating. Obama’s ratings have not changed significantly over the past two and a half weeks, although slightly more Americans now rate the job he is doing as “very poor.” At the same time, more Americans (49%) now say BP is doing a very poor job of handling the spill, up from 39%. A separate Gallup poll conducted June 5-6 found thatObama’s job approval rating on handling the oil spill was 40%.

The results are surprising bipartisan when it comes to Obama, although not BP.  The same percentage of Republicans and Democrats (73%) believe Obama hasn’t been tough enough yet with BP, while 68% reach the same conclusion among independents. It changes somewhat on approval ratings overall for Obama’s spill response, with only 27% of Democrats rating Obama as poor or very poor.  Seventy-nine percent of Republicans and 59% of independents criticize Obama’s response.

On BP, the numbers also turn a bit partisan.  While the overall direction of Americans is to push BP to pay even if it bankrupts the company, Republicans are the ones out of step with the national mood on this question.  Forty-nine percent say that BP should pay as much as possible without pushing the company into collapse, while only 32% of Democrats and 36% of independents agree.  Clearly, the national mood paints BP as the villain (and, at least arguably, rightly so) while putting Obama in the position of an impotent and/or incompetent executive.

In other words, the Captain Kickass routine didn’t impress anyone.  They want Obama to take a tougher line with BP, but an effective and tougher line.  The administration response has been anything but effective thus far.

What will Obama say tonight, then, to turn the corner?  Expect plenty of tough talk about BP.  These numbers indicate that Americans want to see BP punished, but also want the cleanup to work properly.  Blame BP too much and eventually it comes back to what the administration was and wasn’t doing before the spill.  I’d also predict that Obama will go deep into the details of the government response, not so much as to educate us on the intricacies of the operation but to bulldoze viewers with a mountain of data to impress on people just how complicated this task has become.  Don’t expect to hear much at all about the first seven weeks of impotence and incompetence, except perhaps a throwaway line about “learning our lessons” somewhere in the beginning of the speech.  Obama will focus entirely on the future, the one place where he can assume the mantle of competence in this disaster.

And, speaking of the future, expect Obama to make a big, hard-sell pitch for cap-and-trade tonight as part of his speech.  In doing so, he will link the Democrats to the second unpopular, economy-busting bill of the 111th Congress, and this one just before the midterms.  The oil spill may be a disaster in the Gulf, but cap-and-trade is an economic disaster for the Midwest, the Coal Belt, the Rust Belt, and unpopular everywhere inside the two coasts.  Right now, though, Obama seems determined to save himself through misdirection, and he’ll pitch this as a bill that could have saved us from Deepwater Horizon, even though it has nothing to do with the already-established drilling in the Gulf.