June 27 2014
Patrice J. Lee
President Barack Obama’s approval rating has hit a low of just 42 percent of Americans approving of the job he is doing. His low performance doesn’t only affect his ego but Democrats fighting to hold onto their seats and leadership of the Senate. So the president will play hooky from Washington this summer and hit the road in a casual, campaign-style outreach to reconnect with Americans and drum up sympathy from the electorate.
The White House has its eyes on the numbers. A recent poll found that the President ’s approval rating in 12 states with the most competitive Senate races is only 38%—4 points lower than his national approval number.
What’s driving these low numbers? Take your pick of leadership blunders and scandals: the Veterans Affairs scandal, the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap, collapse of Iraq, the IRS scandal and cover-up, and the botched rollout of ObamaCare. Some 57% of voters consider them to be “real problems that raise serious doubts about the competence of the Obama Administration.”
Instead of dealing with these issues and taking the pummeling for his lack of leadership, the President is ducking out of D.C. to regroup through a fan tour across the U.S.
The Washington Post reports:
Presidents, they’re just like us.
That was the message from the White House as Obama began a series of summer trips outside Washington that his advisers are calling a “day in the life” tour to spend time with ordinary Americans. It may not quite have been Us Weekly material, but the president was trying his hardest to blend in.
“I’ve really been looking forward to getting out of D.C.,” said Obama — sans necktie, shirtsleeves rolled up — at an outdoor town-hall-style gathering with about 350 Minnesotans. “Our agenda’s still a little loose. I might pop in for some ice cream or visit a small business. I don’t know. I’m just going to make it up as we go along.”
But make no mistake: It is a carefully calibrated strategy to make the president more accessible to constituents at a time when his approval ratings have dipped and his relations with Congress have hit rock bottom.
Aides said Obama’s tour is aimed at learning more about the lives of middle-class families and showing the public that he empathizes with their day-to-day struggles. The strategy comes after a series of executive actions that have tried to boost the economy without having to win approval from a sharply polarized Congress.
Even with no election, the President is focused on his image with the American public and the rippling impacts it will have on his ability to advance his agenda in Washington. The midterm elections in a few months are a key part of that. He needs to retain support in the Senate.
Will this folksy town hall-style tour work? It may go a ways in reminding Americans that the President has a strong likeability quotient, but it’s not enough. He will probably complain about the hammering he is taking from recalcitrant members of the opposing party in Washington and how they’re hindering him. That messaging may play well in local media looking for a story but Americans don’t like whiners and it can come across as a tacit admission that he is simply in over his head and has been since he was elected.
Americans want strong, competent leadership. Staged trips a la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off won’t be enough to change their minds.
Furthermore, the people he is meeting for greasy hamburgers and ice-cream are carefully selected and scripted. They will share their stories of hardship with the leader of the Free World. However, after the photos are snapped and the b-roll footage is captured, he will shake their hands and move on to the next stop.
What the President can’t offer are real solutions to improve their day-to-day hardships. But that’s not his mission, votes are.