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Obama winning p.r. debt battle, but losing the war

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows yet again that Obama and his policies are better-liked than Washington Republicans. But it's a pyrrhic victory.

Polls indicate that Obama might be on the right side of the debate, but he's getting on the wrong side of public opinion. A new Gallup poll shows his job-approval rating is at a low 43 percent. The Washington/ABC poll (mentioned throughout from this point) shows 47 percent approve of Obama's job handling, while 48 percent disapprove.

Yet Americans trust Obama more than Republicans when it comes to helping the little guy and small businesses over large corporations and Wall Street. They say that Obama's actions have been better for American than the actions of Republicans or President Bush. They think that Obama has been more willing to compromise than Republicans (although a majority of 58 percent think Obama hasn't been willing enough to compromise). And they'll blame Republicans slightly more than Obama if the debt limit isn't raised or if there are financial troubles as a result.

What's more, 62 percent side with Obama's proposal (albeit, he presented no specific plan) to address the budget deficit by "a combination of both" cutting spending and raising taxes. Here's the approve-disapprove for:

Medicaid cuts    26-72

Military cuts    43-56  

Tax hikes for $250k+ 72-27 

Medicare eligibility-age increase 46-54 

Slowing Social Security benefit calculation     42-53   

Raising taxes on oil and gas companies          59-39 

Raising Medicare premiums for wealthier retirees            61-36   

Increase Social Security taxes on those who earn $107k+     66-33    

Tax hikes on hedge-fund investors     64-25 

The poll's findings are eerily similar to a CNN survey from last week.

 But there aren't enough Washington Democrats (and there are almost 0 Republicans) who will vote to raise taxes, even on the wealthy. Republicans, though, are willing to cut/cap entitlement programs. The poll suggests they're on the wrong side of public opinion by any of these measures. But they're hanging together. Democrats are hanging separately from the prez.

What gives?

Campaign season. It's perpetually in effect nowadays. And political advisors and politicians believe that even a tax-hike on the rich would be reduced to a 30-second ad about generically "raising taxes." And that's a killer. Also, Obama's name will specifically be on the ballot. Generic "Republicans" won't. They'll be listed as individuals in their districts, which are likely drawn to protect their political party or incumbency (though it could be different in Florida in 2012). Also, it seems that Republicans have more support with their base than Democrats. And Republicans have a visceral belief that raising taxes on anyone will be bad. And they'll holler about it. Democrats are more wishy-washy.

So Republicans can afford to take positions. And the more they fight Obama, the more he seems to lose public support and his cool. So much for changing the tone in Washington. Washington has changed Hope and Change into a plate of peas. Check out this word cloud of his speech last night. See if you can easily spot the "hope and change" in there.

What's more, the American people are in a volatile throw-the-bums-out mood. The poll shows people feel it's tough to find a job and a majority of Americans (54 percent) have had to adjust their finances. And Americans are angry, with 61 percent saying they're angry or upset, while 38 percent say they're not. In April of 2009, 45 percent said they were angry/upset and 55 percent said they weren't. So, on the pissed-off-O-meter, that's a 23 percentage-point shift in the direction of anger.

And they're not pleased with Obama. Though he's doing better than Republicans, here's approve-disapprove for Obama's handling of:

 The economy      39-57      

The budget deficit   38-60       

Taxes            45-47      

Creating jobs    41-52


Those aren't numbers that good. But for Obama, they're the good news.