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.

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  • zephyr

    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.

    Hah! Good one. This electorate may not be very highly functioning, but I think voters are still capable of juggling more than one question at a time. And even though Obama’s progressive creds are wanting, the contrast is still pretty stark.

  • dduck

    Damn polls, they don’t always come out on the side of good.

  • DaGoat

    Guess the Democrats had to wait to receive their talking points. On Sunday Axelrod was doing contortions to avoid answering the “are you better off” question, on Monday everybody’s on the same page.

  • DaGoat

    Oops my bad, David Plouffe, not Axelrod.

  • The_Ohioan

    Four years ago (Sept. 2008) I had a lot more money in my retirement accounts, unemployment was exploding, gas prices were 18cents/gallon lower (after a summer’s 28cents/gallon higher), the value of my home was much higher. I guess I was better off…..

  • dduck

    Ohio, come on. Now you are four years away from the Bush years.

  • Dabb

    Four years ago today George W Bush was president.

    Yes, the country is better off today.

  • The_Ohioan

    dd

    My mistake. I thought the question was if I’m better off than I was four years ago. I was trying to give a correct answer. Was it the wrong one?

  • dduck

    No, I was just confused. (Old codger excuse.) That question bugs me as do most campaign slogans.

  • Smooth Jazz

    “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”

    LOL, Thanks for the laugh. I just about needed BenGay for the rib I almost cracked laughing at that one. I guess the best way to spin a “40%” re-elect number, a 43% Job Approval rating in the Gallup tracker and 40% – 43% rating in the Swing States is illusion and bravado. Quick, name an incumbent who was relected with a 43% Job Approval Rating in a respectable poll (Not one of the bogus polls with Dems oversampled by 10%)? Go ahead name one? Didn’t think so.
    When George Bush was reelected in 2004, his Gallup Job approval range from 48% to 54% between August and election day 2004. You can look it up. When was Obama close to 50% in the Gallup Job Approval Number?? 2011?? Obama is tempting fate if he thinks more speeches and a low 40% job approval rating is going to get it done. The enthusiasm isn’t there among Dems. Sorry.

  • slamfu

    I’d like to think we are better off now than back then, but then I remember that the financial markets have several hundred trillion dollars, several times the net worth of everything in every economy, tied up in credit default swap and derivative markets that seem to be built on a house of cards, and major players seem to be playing games with things as fundamental as the LIBOR rate and no one seems to care or go to jail. Then I really gotta wonder. Of course, then I remember Romney isn’t going to lift a finger to fix that, in fact he has pretty plainly stated he’s going to make it easier for those same guys to do whatever they want, and I get even more nervous about what is going to happen in the next few years.

  • dduck

    Yup…………………..

  • SteveK

    Double-Digit Gains in August Car Sales

    DETROIT – Major automakers reported solid sales gains in August in the United States, as consumers responded to higher gas prices by buying more compact cars and small SUVs.

    The Detroit car companies all reported double-digit increases in sales for the month compared to the same period a year ago.

    General Motors, the nation’s largest auto manufacturer, said its American sales grew 10 percent to 240,000 vehicles in August. The increase was driven by a strong performance by its Chevrolet passenger cars, particularly the new Sonic subcompact model.

    Start your stopwatch… How long will it be before the ‘nutters’ start calling these numbers a fraud and say this a conspiracy because Obama bailed out the US Auto Industry.

  • roro80

    I dunno, I remember 4 years ago as pretty rough, with worse to come in the next 6-12 months. Large swaths of people I knew lost jobs, my company was in between two rifs during which I could have easily been laid off (I think what saved me was being so , 401k and IRAs in the toilet, company stock way, way down, housing prices dropping off a cliff. No question that all of that has improved greatly since then, at least in my neck of the woods. Of course, if Europe goes down the tubes, all the improvements in jobs, stock prices, and real estate value could certainly drop again. Still, I’m undoubtedly significantly better off than I was 4 years ago.

  • roro80

    ^^sorry, I meant “what I think saved me was that I was early into my career that I was relatively cheap to keep around)”

  • DaGoat

    @slamfu

    Good points – a lot of the “good times” 4 years ago were built on a bubble that could not be sustained, not just the ones you mention but too easy credit in general plus an inflated housing market. That’s an honest excuse although I doubt the Democrats will use it, trying instead to claim that things are better.

  • The_Ohioan

    Yeah. That 700 Trillion dollars of crapola is still floating out there in the stratosphere. It’s gotta come down sometime. It ain’t gonna just disappear.

  • dduck

    Of course things are “better”, that is obvious from looking at all the things commenters have mentioned. 20/20 hindsight. The Reps say that things aren’t much better, and they want a try.
    The Dems say it could be worse and give us four more.

    Looking into the future is a little harder to do and that, IMHO, is the direction we should be looking and guessing which side has a better shot.

    The Dems seem to be looking BACK and saying that we were given such bad hand and since things are NOW better, we deserve your vote.

    The Reps want to look AHEAD and project that a different course will right things.

  • roro80

    “The Reps want to look AHEAD and project that a different course will right things.”

    Haha. And what course is that? The one they won’t tell us about until after the election? Tax cuts for the wealthy and abortion restrictions won’t right things.

  • Rcoutme

    The Republican idea is to take us back to Sep 2008. That seems to be their entire message from the Reaganesque question. Is Sep (and late August) 2008 better than 2012? I think I remember something about out-of-control naked short-selling of financial stocks, the collapse of a major Wall Street firm, a financial melt-down whose proportions were larger than anything since the beginning of the Great Depression, and massive bailouts.

    The Republicans have the hubris to ask me if I’m better off than I was four years ago? You mean that time just before your guys’ policies headed towards destroying the entire world economy?

    Yeah…I think I’m better off.

  • ShannonLeee

    The economy was crashing when Obama took office. Both Clinton and Bush enacted policies that help cause this disaster. Obviously, the housing bubble was not obamas fault, neither was the massive market over valuation. To think that anyone could correct 2 decades of fatal economic flaws in 4 years is extremely naive.
    But the question stands… Are you better off now? Most folks aren’t. Do you understand why you are not better off now? Most folks do not.

    One President cannot fix the world economy in 4 years.

  • http://themoderatevoice.com T-STEEL, Site Administrator

    I think the “are you better off now than you were 4 years ago” isn’t fair to any US President. 4 years ago I was unceremoniously laid off from HP after 11 years of service. In the past 3 years, I was laid off twice from other Fortune 500 companies. But now, I’m working for myself and doing better (longer hours but I’m my own boss). So I am better off than I was 4 years ago. But guess what, it still doesn’t make we want to change my vote to Obama or Romney. Because they both all Wall Street’s “boys” (as are many politicians).

  • drafter

    If pres OBAMA has created so many jobs (4.1 million) over 4 years and they have had positive job growth for as long as they could talk why isnt the unemployment number going down? Its the riddle

  • 4chewnut

    The Ohioan said, “Yeah. That 700 Trillion dollars of crapola is still floating out there in the stratosphere. It’s gotta come down sometime. It ain’t gonna just disappear.”

    $700 Trillion ??

    4 years ago you lost 35% of your retirement, 50% of the equity in your home, and almost all of your ability to declare yourself insolvent.

    got tea.