Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama losing stimulus message war

At this crucial juncture in the push to pass an economic recovery package, President Barack Obama finds himself in the most unlikely of places: He is losing the message war.

Despite Obama’s sky-high personal approval ratings, polls show support has declined for his stimulus bill since Republicans and their conservative talk-radio allies began railing against what they labeled as pork barrel spending within it.

The sheer size of it — hovering at about $900 billion — has prompted more protests that are now causing some moderate and conservative Democrats to flinch and, worse, hesitate.

The anxiety over lost momentum seemed almost palpable this week as the president in television interviews voiced frustration with his White House’s progress and the way his recovery program was being demonized as a Democratic spending frenzy.

In Obama’s own words in an NBC interview, it’s his job to “get this thing back on track.”

Already, he’s trying — rolling out Michelle Obama to talk stimulus Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday (at a train station, no less) and sitting down with key senators one-on-one.

But this is unfamiliar turf for a team that achieved near epic status for its communication skills during the presidential campaign. It has rarely ever had to play catch-up.

With the president’s gifted oratory and a technologically savvy team, the Obama camp was able to seize control of the national conversation as early as April and never fully relinquish it right through his inaugural address two weeks ago.

To be sure, some of Obama’s headaches stem from the normal dysfunction that occurs when a White House is in transition. Phones don’t work, chains of command are fuzzy, and there are formalities that need tending to.

But the Obama team also made its own mistakes. The president’s troubled Cabinet nominees added to the cacophony that at times drowned out the White House economic messages in the past two weeks.
And it seems more apparent each day that the nascent Obama administration isn’t fully prepared for the task at hand.

Jeanne Cummings on Yahoo News