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Obama losing some support among nervous Dems

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BETH FOUHY
July 18, 2009
— Could it be that President Barack Obama's Midas touch is starting to dull a bit, even among members of his own party?

Conservative House Democrats are balking at the cost and direction of Obama's top priority, an overhaul of the nation's health care system. A key Senate Democrat, Max Baucus of Montana, complains that Obama's opposition to paying for it with a tax on health benefits "is not helping us."


Another Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, tells his local newspaper that Obama is too liberal and is "very unpopular" in his district.


From his first days in office, Obama's popularity helped him pass the landmark $787 billion stimulus package and fueled his ambitious plans to overhaul the nation's health care system and tackle global warming.


Obama continues to be comparatively popular. But now recent national surveys have shown a measurable drop in his job approval rating, even among Democrats. A CBS news survey out this week had his national approval rating at 57 percent, and his standing among Democrats down 10 percentage points since last month, from 92 percent to 82 percent.


With the economy continuing to sputter and joblessness on the rise, many of Obama's staunchest Democratic supporters are anxious for his agenda to start bearing fruit.


"We are eager and impatient, so you're seeing a little bit of that," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "Elections have results, and those in the base are the most anxious to achieve what's promised in the election. That's why Democrats are showing some impatience in reaching our goal."


Obama won Ohio, a key swing state, by 4 percentage points in 2008 over Republican John McCain. But the one-time industrial powerhouse has been hit hard by the weak economy, and a Quinnipiac University poll released this month showed Obama with a lackluster approval rating of 49 percent.


Redfern argued that the stimulus program has begun to show tangible results in his state and people shouldn't expect the economy to turn around instantly.


A similar argument came from Nevada, another swing state Obama carried. Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross counseled patience, saying that voters in his state want Obama to succeed and that their support would be solidified once they saw stimulus-driven building projects under way.


"Generally, folks in Nevada are waiting to see the effects of the stimulus package," Ross said. "I think the president is probably just as impatient to get this money out in the country to employ people as anyone."


In Missouri, which Obama narrowly lost to McCain, Democratic strategist Steve Glorioso said hardcore base voters were as enthusiastic as ever for Obama but that there was a sense of disappointment about him among less committed Democrats and independents.


"People are scared," Glorioso said. "This is the worst economic time anyone under the age of 80 has ever experienced, and you can't discount people being afraid. Now that we are in July, the fear is turning to disappointment that the president hasn't fixed everything yet. I don't know why they thought he could change everything by now, but some did."


Glorioso said an open Senate race next year in Missouri, where Democrat Robin Carnahan is likely to face former Republican Rep. Roy Blunt, will be a crucial test of Obama's appeal.


"If the economy gets better and they pass a reasonable health care bill, his popularity will be way back up and Carnahan will win," Glorioso said. "If none of that happens, it's a moot point."


In Michigan, where the near-collapse of the auto industry has driven the unemployment rate to 14.1 percent, the nation's worst, the state's Democratic chairman, Mark Brewer, said support for Obama among Democrats has remained strong.


"People are very worried and concerned, I don't want to dispute that," Brewer said. "But they voted for the president in overwhelming numbers and want to support the things he's trying to do."


Obama traveled to Michigan this week to unveil a $12 billion program to help community colleges prepare people for jobs. There, he made an audacious declaration.


"I love these folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, 'Well, this is Obama's economy,'" the president said. "That's fine. Give it to me!"


Redfern, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said he welcomed that statement but cautioned it came with a price.


"When it's the president's economy, it's the president's trouble," Redfern said. "Americans are eager for the change that they voted into office. They support him, they just want to see results sooner rather than later."



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