Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Obama approval rating back up to 50%

Don't look now, but President Obama's popularity is going back up.

In fact, the Gallup people report that Obama's approval rating is back at 50%, its highest level in seven months.

"Obama's approval rating has been in the mid-40% range for much of the latter half of 2010," Gallup reported. "He last hit 50% approval in a three-day average near the end of May/beginning of June."
Gallup also noted that "it is not yet clear if Obama's approval rating will stay above 50% in the coming days" and that "the current 50% average over the last three days could reflect a temporary increase in optimism that Gallup sometimes sees at the beginning of a new year."

The report added:
The latest numbers also come at a time when the president was on vacation in Hawaii and out of the political spotlight, following a highly publicized pre-Christmas session with Congress that resulted in the passage of several major pieces of legislation.
The president's popularity is also party driven:
Obama's current approval rating is 80% among Democrats, 47% among independents, and 16% among Republicans in the three most recent days of polling. The figures for independents and Republicans are slightly higher than what Gallup has measured for Obama in recent weeks.

Obama starts to play defense with new Congress

After an aggressive two years on the legislative front, President Obama starts today to play defense.

Obama will continue to promote jobs, energy and education programs in the months ahead, but he and aides will probably spend more time defending his health care, stimulus and Wall Street regulation bills from the new Republican House.

The House being sworn in today has set a Jan. 12 vote to repeal the health care bill. It's largely a symbolic act -- the Democratic-run Senate won't follow suit, and Obama would veto a repeal in any case -- but Republicans can try to defund parts of the health care plan as various provisions come on line.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., new chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, has vowed to investigate such items as how Obama administration regulation affects job creation, and the roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the foreclosure crisis.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says he will curb what he calls excessive regulation by the administration. He cited rules by the Environmental Protection Agency to limit greenhouse gases as a response to global warming.

"We are not going to let this administration regulate what they've been unable to legislate," Upton told Fox News.

Of course, the House is only one part of Congress. Democrats have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, but the addition of six new Republicans will make it easier for the GOP to block Obama initiatives.

Obama has largely held his fire on the Republicans, saying voters want the parties to work together to create jobs rather than play politics leading into the 2012 presidential election.

Aboard Air Force One yesterday, Obama said he hopes Republican congressional leaders "realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012."

"Our job this year is to make sure that we build on the recovery," Obama said.

Gibbs to leave White House

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed today he will leave next month to set up his own consulting business and become an outside political adviser to President Obama.

Gibbs is likely to discuss the move in a briefing later today.

Obama, in a telephone interview with The New York Times, said Gibbs will remain a close adviser and "will continue to shape the dialogue politically for many years to come."

The spokesman's departure is scheduled for early February after the president's State of the Union speech, which is tentatively set for Jan. 25.

Gibbs first went to work for Obama during his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. The president told The Times:

There was no announcement about a successor to Gibbs. Among the contenders: Bill Burton, deputy spokesman, and Jay Carney, communication director for Vice President Biden.

Gibbs' move is part of an overall series of White House personnel moves, including a new director of the National Economic Council and, possibly, a new White House chief of staff.

Obama is talking with Clinton administration Commerce Secretary William Daley about the possibility of being chief of staff, though it's possible that interim chief Pete Rouse could keep the job full time.

"You'll be seeing announcements in due course," Obama told The New York Times. "Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do. The American people are expecting us to hit the ground running and start working with this new Congress to promote job growth and keep the recovery going."

As for Gibbs, Obama said, "Robert, on the podium, has been extraordinary. Off the podium, he has been one of my closet advisers. He is going to continue to have my ear for as long as I'm in this job."

It's long been suspected that Gibbs would leave the podium around the two-year mark of the Obama presidency. One option for him was another White House post, perhaps replacing David Axelrod as that senior adviser returns to Chicago to set up Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.

The possibility that Gibbs would leave the White House entirely surfaced recently, though he will probably remain a very public voice on behalf of Obama.

Potential models are James Carville and Paul Begala, major architects of President Bill Clinton's election in 1992. Afterward, they maintained a private consulting firm and served as prominent outside spokesmen throughout the Clinton presidency, including during his 1996 re-election bid.