Obama’s Playbook

by Jonah Goldberg

Okay, I guess this is going to be one of my ongoing themes for a while: The conventional wisdom is wrong. As I argued here and here.

For today’s installment, read First Read:

*** Did last week’s speech backfire? A new Washington Post/ABC poll — which shows President Obama’s approval down to 47%, and with 44% believing the U.S. economy is getting worse (when employment is actually on the rise) — suggests that the climbing gas prices have soured the public’s mood, big time. “Almost eight in 10 say inflation in their area is getting worse, and more than seven in 10 say higher gasoline prices is causing financial hardship at home,” the Post writes. But this poll, as well as the Gallup surveys, also seems to confirm that the president’s speech last week might not have played well. For one thing, and this is true going back to the ’08 campaign, Obama usually doesn’t get rewarded when he comes off as too partisan (even though the left loves it). More importantly, last week’s speech was on a topic — the deficit/debt — that most Americans don’t find as important as the economy/jobs. And in the Post/ABC poll, Obama took a hit with independents, with 55% of them disapproving of his job. 

I think the First Read guys are understating what’s going on. Recall that last week, much of the conventional wisdom about Obama’s outrageous budget speech was that it was either irresponsible-but-effective (the line from moderates and conservatives) or fantastic-and-effective (the line from the Krugman crowd).

David Brooks wrote that “it doesn’t take a genius” to understand that Obama’s approach will get him reelected because it works in “election after election.”

Even Charles Krauthammer repeated last night on Special Report that Obama’s demagoguery will have short-term political gain. And if the point of the speech was to shore up Obama’s support with his base, Krauthammer’s right. But there’s been no bounce with independents, despite fawning coverage of Obama’s speech from nearly every MSM outlet.

Standard & Poor’s move yesterday, I think, will only serve to render the old rules even more moot. I know there’s a lot of debate over the political significance of the downgrade, but it seems to me it helps the Republicans and makes Obama’s faith in the old scare tactics even more misguided.

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