It's easy to tell when politicians or parties are worried about an issue or a trend. They take the offensive and aggressively spin their own version of events. That's what David Axelrod, President Obama's chief strategist, did this morning.
Faced with a barrage of news stories and commentaries that President Obama is on the ropes, Axelrod sent a memo to Sunday talk-show producers making the case that things are actually going quite well for Obama's re-election campaign.
"Members of the media have focused on the president's approval ratings as if they existed in a black box," Axelrod wrote in his memo, which has been obtained by many news organizations and reporters, including me. "Following the intransigence of the Republicans during the debt debate, the approval rating of the GOP brand dropped to a historic low. The approval rating of Congress dropped to a near historic low."
Axelrod argued that many of the president's proposals to create jobs are popular with voters when assessed individually, including his proposals to cut taxes for the middle class and rebuild roads and bridges. [See five reasons Obama is the same as Bush and Clinton.]
And Axelrod went out of his way to argue that Obama is not losing support within his Democratic base.
"Despite what you hear in the elite commentary, the president's support among base voters and in key demographic groups has stayed strong," Axelrod said. He cited the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll showing that 81 percent of Democrats approve of Obama's job performance. "That's stronger than President Clinton's support among Democrats at this point in his term and, according to Gallup, stronger than any Democratic president dating back to Harry Truman through this point in their presidency," Axelrod said, adding that 92 percent of African-Americans, one of his key constituencies, approve of Obama's job performance. [Check out political cartoons about the budget and deficit.]
Of course there is another side to all this. For example, Axelrod doesn't acknowledge that an overwhelming majority of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction, a very bad sign for any president. And there is a powerful anti-incumbent mood that appears to be growing and that could sweep many office-holders out of their jobs--Republicans, Democrats, and Obama himself.