April 28, 2011 | by Peter Rosenstein
President Obama is down in polls, but not out

Recent polling finds President Obama’s approval ratings at an all-time low. It may have to do with three wars, the lousy economy, his healthcare plan, the budget deal, the fact that he is still only “evolving” on marriage equality or it may be a hundred other things. But even with the low poll results in direct match-ups he is still beating all potential/rumored Republican candidates in the 2012 election.

Can you imagine what the polls would look like if Obama ended at least one war, the unemployment rate dropped to below 8 percent, he found a coherent message on how to speak up for the working class and fully evolved to support marriage equality?

One statistic in the Washington Post poll found 17 percent with no opinion on Obama. I believe many of those are the people who helped elect him. They are young and old, gay and straight and believed that he would govern based on the message he ran on and are now a little disappointed. They don’t want to register that criticism because against any named Republican they will still support and vote for him, if albeit reluctantly. But before November 2012 President Obama has the opportunity to once again turn those people into enthusiastic voters.

It won’t be easy but by his actions and carefully constructed messaging he can do it. Obama won’t want to alienate independent voters. But he should have faith in those voters who don’t want to see a radical restructuring of Medicare and Medicaid and won’t elect Republicans who walk all over the poor and middle class in their desire to placate the rich and powerful. Independent voters also tend to be more socially moderate.

Messaging could include ads about General Electric. “Did you know that Republicans want to lower GE’s taxes? Since they now pay “zero,” watch John Boehner hand them a government rebate check simply as a token of his appreciation.” Or use the headline “GE makes voluntary tax payment.” Then have a teacher and her family chatting over dinner and saying “Kids, let’s take a vote: Do you think we should donate money to the government this year, or would you rather have those school supplies? OK, guess the government will have to wait till next year for our donation.”

President Obama needs to speak out clearly and not make just one speech about the budget deficit and how he now wants to draw a line in the sand about not extending the Bush tax cuts. He needs to evolve and support marriage equality, he needs to stand up for the poor women of the District of Columbia, he needs to oppose voucher programs, stand up for government employee unions in Wisconsin and directly challenge governors like Chris Christie in New Jersey, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Scott in Florida. He needs to change the dialogue and put Democrats on the offense and there is no one more able than the president to do that.

The Republican message that government workers, union workers and the middle class are the bad guys and the rich and wealthy corporations are the good guys must not go unchallenged.

George W. Bush gave corporations and the rich tax cuts and incentives. We got 10 percent unemployment and foreclosures; they got bailouts and trillions in their bank accounts. Obama can ask union members to pay their fair share, something they have already said they will. But they are not the cause of the economic collapse. They are the victims. The deals that were made with them weren’t one sided. I have never met a millionaire who would turn down a good deal, why would they? But I have met millionaires who don’t want to share their wealth with anyone else and who will take and take until they are stopped. President Obama must say the time to stop is now. I think he will be amazed at the support he gets if he does that.

There is no one that will argue we don’t need to bring down the deficit. The fight is over how and Republicans are clearly misreading how the people want it done. Both Democrats and Republicans often misread mandates and overreach. This time it is the Republicans who are doing it. If President Obama takes the lead and gets the message right, he can turn things around. He found his voice in 2008; we can only hope he finds it again before it is too late.

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