Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Have voters hit the mute button on Obama?

In his column for National Journal, Charlie Cook paints a very daunting picture for the Democrats heading into the midterm. Midterms are referenda on the president and the economy. The economic recovery continues but so slowly that most Americans don’t feel it. President Obama’s approval rating is in the low 40s and unlikely to change. Cook ends with this:

There was a point when voters hit the mute button and stopped listening to George H.W. Bush and then to his son George W. Bush. We now seem to have reached that point with Obama. Voters have thrown up their hands and lost hope that things will get any better.

Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/19/2014 - 11:03 am.

    I’m sorry..

    Did you say something?

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/19/2014 - 11:06 am.


    There are, I think, two reasons why voters hit the mute button on any President at this point in his presidency.

    The first is the 22d Amendment. Voters know that the incumbent in the White House will be leaving, and will not be a factor in our political life anymore. The short attention span of most Americans (which usually precludes any close attention to policy beyond “What the TV News Said Today”) means they just can’t be bothered–it’s on to the next thing.

    The second is the perpetual campaign. As soon as a President is re-elected, the campaigning for the mid-term election starts. The speculation about the next presidential candidates begins shortly after that. It is an old axiom that the horse race aspect of politics (who’s ahead? What did they say? Why was that wrong?) gets more attention than the mundane craft of governance. The new figures, who are entered in the race, get more attention because they are what passes for news. The current President? He’s what we cared about yesterday. We’re onto newer, shinier things now.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/19/2014 - 12:41 pm.

      And the third reason is

      “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Period.”

      People don’t believe a word he says.

    • Submitted by Ted Hathaway on 06/24/2014 - 09:50 pm.

      RE: Muting

      I don’t think there’s a single second term of any presidency that’s been as productive as the first. Maybe a single six-year term would be preferable. But perhaps a bigger problem is the two-year term of House members. There’s your recipe for the “perpetual campaign.” If you had a 4-year term, you could stagger them and wouldn’t face the prospect of the House forever “turning over” every two years.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/19/2014 - 11:42 am.

    Mute button

    I can only endorse RB Holbrook.

    The cause(s), whether a coordinated campaign to render the President ineffective, the 22nd Amendment, the perpetual campaign, short voter attention spans, or some combination of these things and others not listed, are somewhat immaterial.

    In this case, even Obama supporters realize his policy influence is dwindling, while the Republican campaign to oppose anything and everything Obama, no matter what, hasn’t dwindled at all.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/19/2014 - 12:11 pm.

    May I quote Chuck Todd?

    “Essentially the public is saying your presidency is over…”


    To clarify; Chuck is speaking of the 1/2 of Americans for whom it started at all.

  5. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 06/19/2014 - 12:42 pm.

    Why Should They Listen?

    For the past year, the American people have had good reason to lose confidence in Obama. The government under his administration seems either out of control (NSA, IRS) or wildly incompetent ( rollout, IRS). The best description of his foreign policy is probably ‘taken by surprise’. And the stories they tell to try and explain various failures (healthcare numbers, IRS emails, etc.) seem wildly implausible. Even the liberals I know and talk to seem increasingly embarrassed by the Obama administration.

  6. Submitted by jason myron on 06/19/2014 - 01:14 pm.

    Snooze button

    I’d add to Ray and RB’s comments that another aspect is Obama Derangement Syndrome fatigue. The baggage that follows Obama is the relentless, hypocritical outrage over virtually everything the man says or does by his detractors. It’s been non-stop since before he was inaugurated in 2009. Exacerbate that with a 24/7 media that feeds on drama… comment sections in the Strib where the same ten people turn any subject into a “blame Obama” hate fest… add Twitter, Facebook and other social media…frankly, I’m tuning it all myself until the Fall.

  7. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/19/2014 - 01:29 pm.

    The media

    The adoring Obama media have now turned some of their 24 hour campaign attention to Hilary Clinton.

    This has made Obama trivial and will probably make Hilary “boring” by 2016.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 06/19/2014 - 02:08 pm.

      You’d better hope so

      because the current potential candidates that are falling out of the GOP clown car won’t be within 10 percentage points of her….despite your tired “Benghazi” affliction.

      • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/19/2014 - 03:02 pm.

        Dude – that was 2 years ago!!

        • Submitted by jason myron on 06/19/2014 - 04:49 pm.

          And he was right

          none of your faux scandals have garnered any traction in the effort make your dinosaur party look palatable to anyone not wearing a tricorn, tin foil hat.

          • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 06/23/2014 - 10:22 am.

            Scandal Attention

            For some people, it’s only a scandal when it’s done by a President of the wrong party. That’s why the Plame affair was a BIG DEAL but the Obama admin is spotless and blameless for any possible wrong doing. That’s also why it’s important to dig into whether Christie knew anything about closing some lanes on a bridge but inappropriate actions done by the IRS, EPA, Justice Dept, etc. should simply be dismissed.
            I’m sure the next time we have a Republican in office, those same people will simply switch sides again.

          • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/23/2014 - 01:49 pm.

            Scandals (plural)

            Jason – your brought up the subject of Scandal and Scandals.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/23/2014 - 09:52 am.


        Is Hillary the heir apparent? In 2000, it was Al Gore; in 2008 it was Hillary Clinton. Those didn’t pan out.

        Bill Clinton is a smooth operator, the man has a Teflon suit, but his slime sticks to those around him. The most salient examples are Al and Hillary. Despite Clinton’s problems in office, his approval ratings never dropped below 50%. So, how does the VP of a popular President manage to lose? Eight years later, how does Hillary get kicked to the curb by a candidate with arguably no executive experience? Then, she agrees, or bargains, to be his Secretary of State, and is left holding his Benghazi bag. Slime and slime again.

        I won’t be so bold to say that the next President will be a Republican, but I will forecast that Hillary Clinton will not be the next President

        • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 06/23/2014 - 10:39 am.

          The only thing I recall Al Gore losing

          was a Supreme Court vote.

          • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/23/2014 - 12:45 pm.

            Gore ran for President and lost

            A Washington insider attempting a populist campaign, shifting his campaign headquarters from D.C. to Nashville to distance himself from Clinton, waiting until the homestretch to get Clinton help, losing 3% of the vote to Ralph Nader. Pick a misstep, any misstep, to correct or partially correct, and Gore would have been President.

            The Supreme Court tally in Bush v. Gore was 7-2; Gore came closer in the election that he did in court.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 06/23/2014 - 10:50 am.

          I love fiction

          and thanks for the prognostication…hope your record is more accurate that any of the other “conservatives” on this board.

          • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/23/2014 - 12:38 pm.

            Thanks for your hope

            We agree, as I hope my prognostication is true too. We shall see.

            • Submitted by jason myron on 06/23/2014 - 02:00 pm.

              It’s called sarcasm.

              any vote for the GOP is to regress this country back into the stone age. I suspect that this November, you’ll be diving back into your bunker after Dayton and Franken are reelected and your bid to retake the senate falls short. In 2016 when you have more seats to defend along with a collection of theocratic, out of touch candidates to chose from to lose to Clinton by double digits…only then will the fever break. The problem is, by 2024, it will be too late for the GOP to right itself.

              • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/23/2014 - 09:28 pm.

                An example and a definition …

                … packaged together in a single sentence.

                Am I out of my bunker? I fully expect that Dayton & Franken will win their reelection bids. For reference, I have not failed to pick the winner in an election in which I voted since Jesse Ventura became our Governor. BTW, I am not trying to retake the Senate.

                I hope we all hear the call to walk in lockstep with you, lest we regress to the stone age.

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/19/2014 - 02:09 pm.

    Silence is golden…

    All I can think of are the half-dozen or so shooting wars we would have been involved in by now if McCain/Palin were the people’s choice.

    This morning McCain was fulminating about the need to kick ass in Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq. And he’s not happy about Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and so on. And he said Obama unilaterally pulled out of Iraq, the US should have left 10’s of thousands of troops there (thereby managing to ignore Bush’s 2008 SOFA and Maliki pushing the US out of the door).

    Perhaps with such an ambitious international military “king of the world” program in the offing, the Republicans should think about conscription…

    Muted is better than loudmouth.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/23/2014 - 09:31 pm.


      Senator McCain was too old to be President. Then he got re-elected to a six-year Senate term. He still gets a mention in at least 50% of liberal posts regarding President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, decisions made by the man who defeated him six years ago when he was too old to be President.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/24/2014 - 01:21 pm.

        All publicity is good publicity

        I don’t get what point you’re trying to make by noting how often Senator McCain is mentioned in “liberal posts regarding President Obama’s foreign policy decisions., but one reason he is mentioned so frequently is because he is regarded by the pundits as someone whose judgment we should trust on foreign policy and defense matters. This is true even though his opinions on foreign affairs run the gamut from simplistic to potentially catastrophic.

        I suspect he is booked on the Sunday morning talk shows for the same reason certain actors used to appear regularly on the Tonight Show: he lives close to the studios, and he is always available and willing to fill in at short notice. Senator McCain is the Charles Nelson Reilly of American foreign policy.

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/20/2014 - 09:38 am.


    One of the ironies of Barack Obama is that while he is extraordinarily eloquent, he isn’t terribly effective at messaging. It’s as if he were James Joyce, when what he needs to be is Don Draper. The obvious contrast is with Bill Clinton. Has that man ever said anything eloquent, anything that soared at any time in his life? But his talent, his gift really, is the ability to break down complicated concepts into simple phrases and ideas, that people can understand and at times, even relate to. If any one event saved Barack Obama’s election prospects in 2012, it was Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention, where he was able to state the case for the Obama presidency effectively, something which President Obama has never been able to quite do.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/20/2014 - 05:09 pm.

      The difference is

      that Bill Clinton is a cynic.
      He knows that he is very smart and very knowledgeable, and doesn’t expect most people to function at his level. So he is the ultimate politician; unexcelled at pitching his arguments to the level that most people will follow. He doesn’t want to sound any smarter than the average voter (the ‘good old boy’ schtick)..
      Obama on the other hand gives the average citizen too much credit; he thinks that he can explain everything at the level that he himself understands it.
      I suspect that Clinton could be just as inspiring if he wanted to, but he knows that ultimately, short of a real existential threat (see Lincoln; Roosevelt) a simple explanation appealing to public self interest is better politics.
      Remember, the speech that Obama is best known for was not aimed at voters in general; it was aimed at the party faithful.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/21/2014 - 08:16 am.

        The heart

        It’s an ancient distinction; Obama is a man of intellect a man of the mind and of reason. Clinton is a man of the heart and other body organs. To allude to Dylan, Obama knows what people need, Clinton knows what people want.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/21/2014 - 08:53 pm.

          My point was

          that Clinton is at least Obama’s intellectual equal.
          The difference is that he applies his more effectively to appeal to people, rather than just by analyzing a situation.

          And I’ll see your Dylan and raise you a Stones:
          You can’t always get what you want,
          but you might get what you need.

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/20/2014 - 09:24 pm.

    Mr. Obama is the chief executive of the largest corporation on earth, the US government. As a manager he is completely out of his depth. He has not hired experienced managers bring strength to the White House or the cabinet where it has glaring weaknesses. He has made political choices where he should have been focusing on competency instead, and is suffering political consequences for those managerial errors. Worse, I don’t think he understands where he went wrong. He’s not even familiar with the idea of good management. He gets annoyed when things don’t work because he and his advisers do not know what it takes to make a large organization work.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/21/2014 - 08:59 pm.

      Presidents with corporate backgrounds

      I’ll cite Hoover and Ford,
      do not rank highly.
      Fortunately, the government is not run by political appointees; it’s run by the nonpolitical professionals who do the work.
      The main effect that political appointees can have is by fouling things up by trying to directly manage agencies. We’ve seen that too in the recent past, but Obama is far from the worst offender.

      • Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/22/2014 - 07:01 pm.

        Hmm. A lot of spin, here.

        Running a country is harder than running a company (less power), but there are many similarities in the two executive decisions. Almost all of the work is going to be done by your employees, so choosing good managers and evaluating their work well is vital. Politicians with only legislative background don’t have experience setting goals, planning, evaluating, hiring and firing, and they don’t have a stable of people ready to go to work for them who know how to make things work in a big bureaucracy. The president’s advisers are all political hacks. He filled his cabinet with politicians, not managers.

        Too partisan? I voted for the man (best of two bad options).

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/23/2014 - 09:31 am.

          Running a country vs. running a company

          There is little similarity between running a country (or any unit of government) and running a company. A business exists solely to make a profit for its owners. Considerations such as due process, protection of minority rights, or long-term security of the entity just aren’t there.
          Consider GM, and how it handled the defective ignition switches on its cars. Could a government get away with balancing safety concerns with the cost of correcting or not correcting them? To whom is the leadership of GM accountable–to the people who were injured, the people who bear the cost of caring for or dealing with those injuries, or the shareholders, who probably will not complain too much as long as their investment is protected. Would the people allow the government to be run that way?

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/23/2014 - 01:59 pm.

            You’ve heard

            of the Obamacare rollout and the VA scandal I assume. Both involved incompetent management.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/23/2014 - 03:50 pm.

              Yes, I’ve heard

              In the course of covering up and minimizing them, the Obama-adoring liberal media has been telling both stories at great length.

              No, I don’t deny that there is mismanagement in government, and I don’t claim that the public sector is somehow superior to the private sector. Human institutions are inherently fallible. The significant thing about both of the scandals you have trotted out is that someone is being held accountable, and there is an incentive to fix them that goes beyond making a cost benefit analysis (if you don’t think deadly products have been kept on the market because the cost of paying damage awards for killing and maiming people is cheaper than redesigning or withdrawing a product, you have another think coming). The private sector has more than its share of mismanagement and outright scandal. GM is just the latest example. Think of Enron. Think of the decades the tobacco companies hid evidence of the health risks of smoking. A person who isn’t enthralled to right-wing talking points would know that the 2008 financial meltdown was caused in no small part by risk-blindness and a willingness to lose other people’s money (please save the “government caused it” magillah for the next meeting of your local gullibility association). Who has answered for any of those scandals? Anyone? Or have our job-creators managed to insulate themselves for any moral responsibility for their destruction?

              So, go ahead and keep mentioning the Obamacare rollout problems. Pretend no one has tried to fix them. The VA? Since you’re not a fan of the VA, I should think you would be glad for the vindication, but you can pretend no one is trying to fix that, and that no one will face consequences. Just like it would happen i a business.

Leave a Reply