Barack Obama's popularity plummets ahead of key speech
| Sunday, 09.11.2011, 02:11 PM

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama's popularity has sunk to a new low, according to two new polls, adding to pressure on him to come up with a radical and workable jobs plan that might reverse his fortunes.
Just 43% of people surveyed in a Washington Post/ABC opinion poll published on Tuesday approve of the job the president is doing overall – a new career low. 
This was mirrored by a Politico/George Washington University poll that put Obama's approval rating at 45%, a drop of 7% since May, reflecting attitudes towards his handling of the debt standoff with Republicans in Congress.
The dominant issue is the faltering economy, particularly unemployment, which is stuck at 9.1%, and Obama needs to produce some fresh job creation ideas when he addresses a joint session of Congress on Thursday night.
"The poll figures are not good for him but we are still looking at 14 months before the next election," Norm Ornstein, a political analyst at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, said on Tuesday. "An awful lot can happen in 14 months … I would not write him off."
Orstein said: "If anything can serve as a wake-up call – as if we haven't had enough alarm calls already – these polls ought to do it."  He added that he felt Obama needed to become "more feisty" in dealing with the Republicans.
The president, speaking in Detroit on Monday, said part of his plan would be to create big infrastructure projects such as rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges in the U.S., something he has been talking about since his 2008 White House campaign.
The president may opt for projects he thinks Republicans in Congress will agree to, or go instead for proposals he knows they will block, allowing him to portray them as obstructionist.
One of his would-be Republican challengers, Mitt Romney,  has proposed an alternative approach to Obama in which economic revival would be left to the private sector rather than the federal government.
In a 160-page book setting out proposals for getting people back to work, Romney advocates keeping taxes low and even reducing some, while cutting federal regulation and scrapping Obama's healthcare reforms.
Voters traditionally begin to pay more attention to politics after the Labor Day weekend, and this week will help shape the race for the White House.
As well as Obama's attempt to win Congressional support for a job stimulus package, the Republican candidates seeking to replace him as president are scheduled to debate in California on Wednesday night.  It will be the first time Texas governor Rick Perry, who is well to the right of his party, will share a platform with the others seeking the Republican nomination.
Although he only joined the race last month, Perry has quickly established himself as the frontrunner. The Politico poll puts him on 36%, with Romney, the previous favorite, on 17%. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are each on 10%, with the remainder in single figures. 
The televised debate will present a first opportunity for much of the U.S. public to appraise Perry. Ornstein, who works for the AEI but describes himself as a "bastion of conservativism," said though Perry is very smooth, many Republicans remain uneasy about him. 
"I think just as interesting as Perry is how the other candidates react to him. Romney has to change his approach … Perry is not used to debating when people push back," said Ornstein. "Whether Romney has it in him to be an attack dog is an interesting question."  


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