President Barack Obama heads into his Thursday night speech to Congress in something of an unfavorable position.
Only a third of all Americans in one recent CNN poll said they approved of how he is handling the economy—with 7 out of 10 independents registering disapproval. The Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll out this week has three out of every four voters saying the country is on the wrong track and headed in the wrong direction. Obama remains personally popular but his job approval number is upside down, with 50 percent of those surveyed saying they did not approve of the job he is doing as president. [Vote now: Will Obama be a one-term president?]
Obama has to realize going in to Thursday's speech that there is a lot riding on it. It's not exactly a make or break moment for his presidency, but it's close. If he wants to hang on to the White House for another four years he has got to begin to compromise with the Republicans. Like Clinton before him he needs to moderate the uber-liberal track his presidency has taken. Reining in the Environmental Protection Agency last week over new ozone regulations was a good start—and it certainly has the left in a tizzy—but that's a starting point, not a place to end.
The biggest stumbling block on his path to re-election is unemployment—which remains stuck somewhere north of 9 percent. Obama needs to find ways to get the private sector going again so that it can create jobs that these people can get. Putting them to work for the government isn't going to help the economy at large, which is all another round of stimulus proposals really amounts to. The bureaucratic red tape needs to be cut faster, outmoded and conflicting regulations need to be eliminated and the private sector needs to have a sense of what it can expect from the administration in the weeks and months ahead. Now is the time for a real progrowth package, one that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. The president can start the ball rolling by proposing one Thursday night.