The Hill Poll: Majority Believes Country Worse Off and Obama Doesn’t Deserve Second Term

Patrick Chappatte, Le Temps, Switzerland

A new poll conducted for The Hill finds that many voters believe the country is in worse shape than four years ago and Barack Obama doesn’t deserve a second term. The poll comes just as the Democratic National Convention begins — and indicates the job Obama and the Democrats will have before them when GOPers ask the famous Ronald Reagan question:

A majority of voters believe the country is worse off today than it was four years ago and that President Obama does not deserve reelection, according to a new poll for The Hill.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say the nation is in “worse condition” now than in September 2008, while 54 percent say Obama does not deserve reelection based solely on his job performance.

Only 31 percent of voters believe the nation is in “better condition,” while 15 percent say it is “about the same,” the poll found. Just 40 percent of voters said Obama deserves reelection.

The results highlight the depth of voter dissatisfaction confronting Obama as he makes his case for a second term at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

They also strongly suggest Democrats need to convince voters the election should be a choice between Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, rather than a referendum on the president.

The Ronald Reagan quote is now dominating the campaign, the New York Times notes:

Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, slammed President Obama’s handling of the economy on Monday, seizing on hesitant responses by Mr. Obama’s top strategists when asked whether the country was better off than it was four years ago.

“The president can say a lot of things, but he can’t tell you you are better off,” Mr. Ryan said while campaigning in Greenville, N.C., ahead of the opening of the Democratic convention here on Tuesday.

One sign Republicans are using this but only to a point: so far they haven’t put George W. Bush on the stump. So there’s a limit to how far they want voters to consider the answer to that question. MORE:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. hit back quickly, telling a union audience in Detroit that the administration unequivocally believes that the country’s economy has improved since Mr. Obama took over from President Bush.

“Folks, let me make something clear,” Mr. Biden said. “I’ll say it to the press. America is better off today than they left us.”

The dueling comments from the two vice presidential rivals came as Democrats gathered in North Carolina to begin their three-day convention on Tuesday. And it came after a weekend in which several top supporters of Mr. Obama hesitated to say that the country is better off than it was.

Republicans are eager to put the Democrats on the defensive on the question at the start of the Democratic convention. Polls suggest that many people remain pessimistic about the state of the economy and their own financial future — a fact that Republicans hope will help to undermine Mr. Obama’s convention message this week.

A spokesman for Mitt Romney’s campaign criticized Democrats for seeming out of touch with the plight of everyday Americans.

“The middle class has been crushed under President Obama, but he doesn’t seem to get it,” said Amanda Hennenberg, a spokeswoman for Mr. Romney. “Americans deserve a president who understands we’re not better off and has a plan to fix it.”

The attacks come a day after Martin O’Malley, the Democratic governor of Maryland, responded to a question by saying that America was not better off than it was when Mr. Obama was elected.

Look for the Dems to try and finesse that statement when the convention begins. The Democrats — according to another piece in the Times — have now gotten their counter argument together:

A day after fumbling a predictable and straightforward question posed by Mitt Romney last week — are Americans better off than they were four years ago — the Obama campaign provided a response on Monday that it said would be hammered home during the Democratic convention here this week: “Absolutely.”

The focus on the campaign’s handling of the question, after halting and contradictory responses from Democrats on Sunday, complicated the White House’s effort to begin striking a set of themes the president intends to highlight here and carry through the general election.

That effort starts with an argument that Mr. Romney, the Republican nominee, would raise taxes on the middle class while cutting them for the wealthy. It seeks to pitch forward to the next four years the case that Mr. Obama and his allies have made over the spring and summer — that Mr. Romney’s business career showed him intent on profit even at the expense of workers and that his wealth has given him tax advantages not enjoyed by regular people.

“The problem is everybody’s already seen his economic playbook,” Mr. Obama said at a campaign stop in Ohio before a Labor Day audience largely consisting of United Auto Workers union members. “On first down he hikes taxes by nearly $2,000 on the average family with kids in order to pay for a massive tax cut for multimillionaires.”

The Obama campaign began running a new commercial making the same point, and asserting, “The middle class is carrying a heavy load in America, but Romney doesn’t see it.”

As delegates streamed in for the opening of the convention on Tuesday, Mr. Obama and his team were putting the finishing touches on a program that requires a different kind of political daring from the one they showed four years ago, when Mr. Obama gave his speech in a stadium on a stage compared by some to a Greek temple.

This week Mr. Obama is planning to undertake a tricky two-step of convincing wavering supporters being aggressively courted by Mr. Romney that they made the right decision in choosing him four years ago and that he has the country on its way to a sustainable recovery even if they do not always feel it. He will make the argument in an outdoor stadium again, on Thursday night under the threat of rain, but aides say there will be no Greek columns.

Here’s Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, chairman of the convention, making the argument:

The biggest ally for the Democrats could be drawing contrasts with Republicans who seem to respond in almost cartoonish ways that help Democrats make the argument that if GOPers get in power they won’t do much to help working people. For instance read how this Republican framed Labor Day (yeah, right…that’s what it has meant for decades!).

But despite polls such as this, and the Ronald Reagan argument being taken out of mothballs and proving effective, the Obama campaign is reportedly increasingly optimistic about its chances of winning in November.

LEGAL NOTICE ON CARTOON: The above copyrighted cartoon is licensed to run on TMV. Reproduction elsewhere without licensing is strictly prohibited. See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at http://cagle.com. To license this cartoon for your own site, visit http://politicalcartoons.com