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How Barack Obama Became Mr. Unpopular

The Barack Obama that most Hoosiers remember voting for can still be found on YouTube. He stands before a cheering Elkhart high school gymnasium in August 2008, tireless, aspirational, promising a new America of jobs and hope. "We can choose another future," says the newcomer with the funny name. "So I ask you to join me."

Today that view of Obama is harder to find in Indiana. A couple of weeks back and a dozen miles west of Elkhart, hundreds gathered in another school gym — except this time it was for a job fair. With the local unemployment rate above 12% and rising again this summer, about a third of the employer display tables stood empty. Julie Griffin, who voted for Obama in '08, sat down at the room's edge, well dressed and discouraged. After 23 years as a payroll administrator at a local RV plant, she got laid off 18 months ago. "Really, what has he been doing?" she said when I asked about Obama's efforts to help people like her. "I guess I don't know what he is doing."

Across the gym floor, Joe Donnelly, Elkhart's pro-life, pro-gun Democratic Congressman, worked the crowd. He was part of the moderate wave that won Congress for Nancy Pelosi in '06, and he was re-elected with 67% of the vote while campaigning for Obama in '08. The President has since returned to the region three times, but Donnelly is nonetheless fighting for his political life. In a recent television ad, an unflattering photo of Obama and Pelosi flashes while Donnelly condemns "the Washington crowd." This is basically a Democratic campaign slogan now: Don't blame me for Obama and Pelosi. "I'm not one of them," Donnelly told me when I caught up with him. "I'm one of us."

This shift in perception — from Obama as political savior to Obama as creature of Washington — can be seen elsewhere. When Obama arrived in office in January '09, his Gallup approval rating stood at 68%, a high for a newly elected leader not seen since John Kennedy in 1961. Today Obama's job approval has been hovering in the mid-40s, which means that at least 1 in 4 Americans has changed his or her mind. The plunge has been particularly dramatic among independents, whites and those under age 30. With midterm elections just nine weeks off, instead of the generational transformation some Democrats predicted after 2008, the President's party teeters on the brink of a broad setback in November, including the possible loss of both houses of Congress. By a 10-point margin, people say they will vote for Republicans over Democrats in Congress, the largest such gap ever recorded by Gallup.


White House aides explain this change as a largely inevitable reflection of the cycles of history. Midterms are almost always bad for first-term Presidents, and worse in hard times. "The public is rightly frustrated and angry with the economy," says Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's communications director, explaining the White House line. "There is no small tactical shift we could have made at any point that would have solved that problem." In more confiding moments, aides admit that the peak of Obama's popularity may have been inflated, a fleeting result of elation at the prospect of change and national pride in electing the first African-American President. As one White House aide puts it, "It was sort of fake."

But while these explanations may be valid, they are also incomplete. A sense of disappointment, bordering on betrayal, has been growing across the country, especially in moderate states like Indiana, where people now openly say they didn't quite understand the President they voted for in 2008. The fear most often expressed is that Obama is taking the country somewhere they don't want to go. "We bought what he said. He offered a lot of hope," says Fred Ferlic, an Obama voter and orthopedic surgeon in South Bend who has since soured on his choice. Ferlic talks about the messy compromises in health care reform, his sense of an inhospitable business climate and the growth of government spending under Obama. "He's trying to Europeanize us, and the Europeans are going the other way," continues Ferlic, a former Democratic campaign donor who plans to vote Republican this year. "The entire American spirit is being broken."

One explanation for Obama's steep decline is that his presidency rests on what Gallup's Frank Newport calls a "paradox" between Obama and the electorate. In 2008, Newport notes, trust in the federal government was at a historic low, dropping to around 25%, where it still remains. Yet Obama has offered government as the primary solution to most of the nation's woes, calling for big new investments in health care, education, infrastructure and energy. Some voters bucked at the incongruity, repeatedly telling pollsters that even programs that have clearly helped the economy, like the $787 billion stimulus, did no such thing. Meanwhile, the resulting spike in deficits, which has been greatly magnified by tax revenue lost to the economic downturn, has spooked a broad sweep of the country, which simply does not trust Washington to responsibly handle such a massive liability.


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Added: Sep-3-2010 Occurred On: Sep-3-2010
By: The_Obamanation
In:
News
Tags: Barack Obama, Mr. Unpopular, Time
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  • Great article. Dems are trying to make each election race local, while staying 3 trillion miles away form Mr. Hope & Change and his baggage. And what baggage it is. This has to go down as one of the most startling nose dives in political history.

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (16) | Report

    • It won't work. I predict at least 60 in the house and 8 in the Senate. I won't be surprised if it's more. Independents are who got Obama in the WH and they want a refund. I'm going to DVR MSNBC the election day just for the expressions and the occasional head exploding.

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

      (18) | Report

  • I thought he's not popular now because he's racially oppressed? Isn't that the theory that idiots like Maddow and Chrissy Tinglepants put forward? He was popular, but Americans have somehow become more racist since his election.

    They're children, whatever.

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (15) | Report

  • Obama became unpopular because he is FINALLY BEING VETTED on the job.

    Idiot Liberals and 'Independents' elected this arrogant piece of excrement without even knowing who or what he really is.

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (13) | Report

    • Agreed,obama is not unpopular he is TOXIC to dumb-o-crats. They passed his stupid agenda and they will pay the price for it in Nov.
      ANYONE that voted for obama should be ashamed of themselves for buying into his B.S. campaign. It was well known what he was before the election and people that voted for him did not care they just had their head up their arse.

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

      (13) | Report

    • Geoliveleak you nailed it again!!

      He should NEVER have been elected and the MSM and the democratic party are just realizing this??...sheeesh

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

      (4) | Report

    • I agree. Everyone knew what was coming. Before he won the dem canidate, we all knew he was going to try and pass national healthcare. That in its self is enough to not vote for him. IT means NEW taxes, and less choices. It was all about the color of the Man who was running for president. It was all race, all of it. The guy had no background, couldnt prove his nationality, didn't have any political experience. This fucking moron runs the country from his aides. He doesnt know what to do. At More..

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

      (3) | Report

  • What is so astonishing,..is Lefties actually voted in a Muslim to our White House,..How fucking stupid is that?
    people need to learn Islam is not a religion,...
    and Obama belongs to this Cult Islam,.he never really left it,..he put on the other face and fooled half of America to voting for him,.

    pretty damn successful in that regard,..as a Muslim,..

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (13) | Report

  • Well ,he is not popular now because he lied to damn near everyone he has spoken at.

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (11) | Report

  • Barack Hussein Osama IS popular. I'm pretty certain that Monkey-man-in-Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, Al-Shabaab, and on and on think he's just great.

    The Russians probably think he's pretty swell also, but for different reasons.

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (10) | Report

  • i dont know why they complain now...didnt they look at his record while he was a state senator?

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (9) | Report

  • Nationwide we are going to hold these democrat cockroaches accountable for what they have done to this country the last 2 years. They are not going to distance themselves from clown boy and think they will be reelected.

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (8) | Report

  • Waddaya mean there ain't no Wizard Of OZ?!? We elected him to be one, and we want our new ruby slippers damnit!

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (6) | Report

    • You are wrong. We elected him to do what he said. He did not. He was elected because he appealed to people. People want things better, people want change.
      Reagan ushered in a new era of consumption and spending in the government. Since his term this country has gone to complete shit.
      Giving the elite all of the freedoms at the cost of the working and middle classes.
      Why all of the hate against the people who voted for him? They made the mistake of thinking political figures were like them More..

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

      (1) | Report

    • "We elected him to do what he said."

      Well, I agree that "we need a good cleaning in our government", and that "things are getting out of hand", and the first thing that needs to change is too many ignoramuses believing the fairy tale promises from career politicians. For fuck's sake, Obama's record, Bill Clinton's record, GHW Bush's record, Ronald Reagan's record...all told anyone with half a brain everything you needed to know about the person trying to get your More..

      Posted Sep-4-2010 By 

      (2) | Report

  • Obama has never been popular as far I've seen. He lost in a landslide where I'm from. We knew he was incompetent and pathetic before he ever ran for presidency. He lied to his Shitcago constituents, saying he had no plans to run for president because he wanted to be THE BEST Senator for them as he could, the next week he announces he is going to run for president, and does nothing for the people of Shitcago. He has never worked a day in his life, he has NO leadership abilities, he has no experie More..

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (6) | Report

  • HE IS UNPOPULAR CAUSE PEOPLE REALIZE ABOUT "CHANGE OF NO CHANGE"

    .....BUSH & OBAMA = SAME SHIT ...different color

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

    (1) | Report

  • Comment of user 'BasilHoneycup' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • The one that got me was he didn't salute OUR flag because it disrespected some other country or some shit. Piece of crap doesn't even believe in the USA. For better or worse salute the flag. The US has it's problems because of politicians and people that live here and talk down about it instead of trying to make it better. Things will get better but if we just keep talking about it and talking down on it then it won't.

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

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  • Comment of user 'gregory_peckory' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • Many Americans, it seems, have short memories. I wonder how long it will be before the Bush and Cheney period is remembered as a great era, instead of the worst eight years in U.S history. After September 2001, most of the free world was mourning, just like you were. Those two bastards turned that around, didn't they? So Obama inherits all the crap they left behind, including a pointless and inexcusable war, and is vilified at every turn. Then again, god doesn't talk to him, like he talked More..

    Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

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    • Seems you're doing fine tuning history to suite your point of view. Why should anyone else be any different. It might be your opinion that the Iraq/Afghanistan wars are not justified, pointless or inexcusable. Obama seems to be doing exactly what Bush did and in some cases even more.

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

      (6) | Report

    • Ah, but Bush declared one day on the deck of a mighty carrier and to the entire world that the MISSION was ACCOMPLISHED!
      That's what these whining people want to see and that's also what in their eyes Obama is failing to deliver.
      LOL!

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

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    • nailed..only people from outside the states can have the most unbiaded view of the states. awesome avatar.. i've got the original vinyl from '69

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

      (-11) | Report

    • nice avitar from King Crimson - Court of the crimson king. Loved that album!

      Posted Sep-3-2010 By 

      (-1) | Report

    • Comment of user 'Amusing' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!