What the polls can’t say directly, and thus perhaps the White House can’t yet hear, is that the policies themselves are diminishing Mr. Obama’s appeal. There are indications of this in the polls themselves, but they are subtle. On one issue after another, from bail-outs to the environment, Medicare, life issues, foreign policy, the polls now tend to confirm what this pundit and a few other incorrigible reactionaries knew from the outset: that a plurality of American voters had embraced Mr. Obama not because of, but despite the policies he was signalling. They most certainly liked the man and his “temperament,” and they most certainly wanted the Republicans out. But it did not follow that they wanted their government to lurch to the left.
To my analytical mind, such as it is, they wanted Obama the man, but not Obama the agenda, except for the uplifting rhetorical bits about “hope,” “change,” and so forth. The idea that the man could not be separated from the agenda never fully fixed; John McCain and company actually avoided riding home on this point, once the media made clear it would be reported as “scare tactics.”