On jobs vs. high unemployment, Obama has political balancing act
Latest figures show the US economy’s strongest job creation performance in three years. That's good news for Obama, but amid high unemployment, he also needs to stress the plight of out-of-work Americans.
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“The hardest thing to do in all of political communication is how do you deal with a bad but somewhat improving economy?” says Democratic strategist James Carville.
Voters in a focus group reacted poorly to the portion of Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address in which he defended the steps he had taken to rescue the economy, says Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg. “The problem is when you try to tell people who are at the heart of the deep recession … that our things are working, that we were right.… People hate it. They think it is arrogant. It means you are not in touch with their experience.”
Polls show Democrats campaigning for the fall elections are increasingly vulnerable on the economy.
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Some 48 percent of Americans say Republicans in Congress would do a better job dealing with the economy, compared with 45 percent for Democrats, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday. That represents a reversal from last August, when Democrats held a 52 percent to 39 percent advantage.
The same poll showed Democrats also losing ground on healthcare. In August, 51 percent of those surveyed thought Democrats would do a better job with healthcare reform than the GOP. That's now down to 48 percent. Some 46 percent of those CNN surveyed said Republicans would do a better job on health reform.
Economy now gives GOP a political edge
“The economy – not healthcare – is the chief reason for the Republicans' current advantage over the Democrats in the midterm congressional races," CNN polling director Keating Holland said in a statement.
Changing that advantage will be challenging for Democrats given the likelihood that the jobless rate – which remained at 9.7 percent in March – will stay uncomfortably high for the balance of 2010.
“The unemployment rate is still terribly high and it’s going to stay unacceptably high for a long period of time,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday in an interview on NBC’s “Today” program.
Still, March’s job creation figures will make it harder for Republicans to use one of their favorite press release lines: “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”
On Friday, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio kept up the attack on the Obama administration’s economic policies.
“A near ten-percent unemployment rate is completely unacceptable, and no amount of taxpayer-funded temporary Census workers can mask the pummeling America’s employers are taking from Washington Democrats’ job-killing agenda,” Rep. Boehner said in a statement.