If presidential re-election campaigns are a chance for Americans to grade the president's progress, Barack Obama is on track to receive a failing mark in November.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll has the bad news for Obama as he enters the last year of his first term: Nine percent of Americans believe the economy is in the middle of a strong recovery - and slightly more than half of Americans think Obama has accomplished little or nothing in his three years in office.
The WaPo story tries to put a good spin on it for Obama, noting that, while "twice as many say they are worse off financially since Obama became president than say their situations have improved," at least "Obama has begun to recover from career lows in several important areas, including job creation, which is expected to be at the center of the debate in the general-election contest."
While the White House is probably happy Obama's approval rating has risen to 48 percent from 42 percent last fall, the president who recently rather arrogantly claimed his achievements rank fourth best among all presidents, behind only Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt, can't be happy to know that 52 percent of Americans don't share that view. Rather, they think Obama has accomplished "not much" or "little or nothing."
For Obama, it must be unsettling to know that more than half of Americans have realized he is, as they say in Texas, "All Hat and No Cattle." After all, he managed to get elected in 2008 based mostly on his soaring (but empty) rhetoric that camouflaged Obama's rather thin resume. He's the former U.S. Senator who spent most of his four years in that office running for the White House. He's the former Illinois state Senator who mostly voted "present" rather than take a stand. He's the Nobel Peace Prize winner who won the award not for anything he accomplished but because Nobel voters liked the things he said.
To be fair, the Obama administration touts a long list of things Obama has accomplished - meaning, legislation he got passed - but the reality is, three years into his administration, the majority of Americans aren't seeing those things translate into positive impacts in their daily lives. The unemployment rate is still higher than the 8 percent benchmark that Obama promised it would never breach if Congress passed his stimulus plan. And while the rate has come down slightly in recent months, much of the decline appears to be because millions of Americans have stopped looking for work. For them, "Hope and Change" has changed to hopelessness.
But while the 2012 election is likely to turn on economic issues, the WaPo/ABC poll isn't uniformly good news for Republicans.
Obama and Congressional Republicans "run neck and neck when it comes to whom the public trusts on the economy, taxes and the deficit," says the WaPo. "Most of those who see few accomplishments during Obama’s three years in office blame the president, not the Republicans in Congress, for the lack of progress."
While the president still maintains an advantage over congressional Republicans on the question of who is trusted to protect the middle class, "for the first time, he is tied with Republicans among independents on this question."
That squares with recent Gallup polling that shows independents are becoming more conservative.
The WaPo says Obama has a narrow edge over congressional Republicans on job creation overall, "but that again turns into a near-tie among independents."
In fact, "three times as many independents say they are in worse shape since Obama took office," the WaPo reports, noting that is "slightly more negative than it was for former president George H.W. Bush in January 1992, the year he sought reelection."
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