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Obama Wants More Publicity   September 2nd, 2009
The president doesn't seem to be paying attention       

 
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Despite evidence that people are increasing tuning out President Obama's prime time speeches and media events, and despite evidence that the more people hear of him and his health care ambitions, the less they like both, it would appear that Obama is considering yet another media blitz.

President Barack Obama is thinking of throwing more details and personal weight into the debate about a major overhaul of the American health care system, which polls indicate Republicans have been winning in recent weeks.

Faced with falling approval ratings and increasingly impatient with Senate negotiations, Mr. Obama is considering a speech in the next week or so in which he would be "more prescriptive" about what he feels Congress must include in a health bill, top adviser David Axelrod said Tuesday in an interview.


What's interesting is that in recent weeks, the more people--especially Obama--talk about health care, the less people like it. And the less they like Obama. That his poll numbers have completely tanked faster and faster since the health care debate has picked up steam is no coincidence. And Obama actually enjoyed a very minor bump in the polls last week--precisely when he was on vacation and maintaining a lower profile. People seem to like Obama more when they don't see or hear him.

Thus I find it interesting that the administration would think that what's been missing is, *surprise*, another presidential address. This is especially curious because, to date, none of his prime time speeches and press conferences have been particularly informative. In fact, his last prime time press conference wasn't carried by all the networks, and there were complaints after the fact that there just wasn't any meat. Obama didn't say anything new or interesting.

What's the president going to say now? It doesn't seem there's anything he can say that will be helpful. If he endorses a public option his poll numbers will continue to plummet as moderates and conservatives continue to oppose the plan at higher and higher decibel levels. If he doesn't endorse a public option then his poll numbers will likely go down anyway as his base support weakens--and dropping the public option isn't going to buy him much support from the 53% that already oppose his plans. That 53% would prefer nothing be done this year.

Unless Obama is going to put all his eggs into the public option basket and potentially make a very risky bet on a policy most Americans don't want, and which would seem to be dead in the Senate unless a risky "nuclear option" is used, it would seem that all Obama could provide is another content-free photo op that says nothing new.

The days of fluff are over. If the president is going to get out in front of the American people again, he better have something to say. But, again, it seems that anything he could say will only make the political prospects for health care reform became even worse.

The Obama "brand" is damaged. A majority of the American public no longer believes it represents "hope and change." They are more likely to be concerned that it represents something to be afraid of, excessive government control, a higher national debt, and even socialism. And they're right.

Obama chose a very strange order in terms of rolling out his priorities. If health care reform was his priority, he should have tried to do that immediately when he still had high approval numbers.

Instead, the Democrats pushed a pork-barreled stimulus bill that was more about payback to liberal constituencies than about stimulating the economy. Then they rolled out a cap and tax plan that would increase energy prices during a recession. By the time they got to health care, America was already furious. Yet when it was clear that cap and tax was dead in the Senate, they chose to embark on the historically divisive task of tackling issues of health care precisely when their previous actions already had Americans up in arms and ready to fight. After health care, what's next? Cap and tax still seems dead. Are they really going to tackle immigration while America is still keeping a careful eye on the administration?

I have a hard time imagining how their legislative agenda could have been rolled out in a less effective way. Even if the Democrats somehow prevail and push something through, 2009 will go down as a year for future politicians to study as to how not to do things.

And I don't see how another presidential appearance can change that.

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