President Barack Obama is having a rough time of it.
According to the latest Gallup survey, the his job approval has dropped to an all time low, with just 38 percent of the 1,500 U.S. adults surveyed saying they approve of the job he is doing as president. And this does not bode well for his prospects to win re-election in 2012.
As Gallup put it, "Ten incumbent presidents have sought re-election since World War II, and none has won a second term with final pre-election job approval ratings below 48 percent. The last two presidents who lost their re-election bids—George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter—had job approval ratings in the 30 percent range in the fall of the election year. Thus, Obama's challenge is not only to move his rating back above 40 percent, but also to push it close to or above 50 percent." [Vote now: Will Obama be a one-term president?]
What's going on?
First of all, the failure of the American economy to rebound strongly from the recession that started at the end of George W. Bush's second term has finally, the numbers seem to indicate, become Obama's problem. The voters are no longer interested in affixing blame but are instead hungry for solutions—and the president just hasn't provided any. [Check out political cartoons about the economy.]
His listening tour of the Midwest was a bust, with voters more focused on the cost of the buses than with anything the president had to say. His agenda to create so-called "green jobs" is falling apart. And he's shown little leadership on any of the critical issues facing the country. The bloom, as they say, is finally off the rose.
Obama has also been hurt by the onset of the Republican campaign for next year's presidential nomination. The near-dozen candidates to replace him in the White House have all been hammering away at his failures pretty hard while explaining to voters the ways in which they would do things differently. It's a meaningful contrast, one that the president has yet to respond to. [See a slide show of who's in and out for the GOP in 2012.]
There's a lot riding on the "job's speech" he's scheduled to give sometime around Labor Day. It may be his last chance to show the American people he has a plan to get us out of this mess. If he talks about growth and job creation, he's got a shot at holding their interest. If all he does, however, is attack the Republicans and start talking about a second stimulus it is highly likely that the critical bloc of independent voters will tune him out--maybe for good this time. [See political cartoons about Obama.]
In order to bolster his prospects for re-election, Obama has to lead. He has to develop a legislative program and push it on Capitol Hill and he has to show, as Ronald Reagan did many times, that he is willing to negotiate faithfully and make meaningful compromises with "the other party" in the best interests of the country. He needs to get off the "my way or the highway" route he has traveled since coming into office. Otherwise he can start construction on his presidential library sooner than he currently plans to.