President Obama Takes To The Campaign Trail

Although President Obama continues to focus on the economy, especially jobs, it may prove to be a little too late for many of his constituents. When it comes to what Americans think of the job the president is doing, only 40 percent give him positive ratings. Can a president with low approval ratings campaign effectively?

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Joining us, as she does most Mondays, is NPR political analyst Cokie Roberts.

Cokie, Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So whats the effect when you have a president campaigning who has an approval rating in the 40s?

ROBERTS: Well, the Democrats are claiming that it's helping them. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said yesterday that the polling numbers, that socalled generic poll that we've talked about lot, where you say if you -the Congress, you voted for Congress today, would you like a Democrat or a Republican? So it's national not local. He says those numbers have gone up for Democrats, that the Republicans are not beating them as badly as they were before the president went out on the campaign trail.

But, you know, a lot of Democrats still upset that they think the president is not connecting better. And Ms. Hart, the woman we just heart in Scott's piece, who's become something of a national icon since that town meeting; she said afterwards, that she just wanted some sense that the president is getting her frustration, and in fact, she did not feel he did.

INSKEEP: Well, what does that mean then for the president and for his party?

ROBERTS: Well, ABC did a poll last week asking people if they still believed in the American dream. And about half said they did not, and that is very tough because the people who are disillusioned are traditional Democrats, especially non-professional working women who have really been the backbone of Democratic support for the last decade or more.

Now, those women are not going to go out and vote Republican, but they're not very motivated to take time out of what is their very exhausting day to vote at all, and that's a problem. And blue collar men, who are the other disillusioned group, are actually hostile to Democrats and have been for a while. So, if they show up to vote, it's a problem for Democrats.

INSKEEP: So, if you've got conservatives who are very enthused this year and you have key Democratic supporters who are not very enthused, what can Democrats do in the last five weeks or so?

ROBERTS: Well, lucky for them, the Republican nomination in Delaware makes it almost impossible for Republicans to get a hold of the Senate. So, the real battleground remains in the House of Representatives. And there, of course, they go seat by seat, not that national generic number.

Speaker Pelosi told me the other day that she's feeling pretty good as a result of those seat by seat polls, that she's seen in individual districts that members are doing better.

But the Cook political report, which is a nonpartisan, very reliable counter, says something very different. It says that an open Democratic seat, that those seats are leaning Republican or tossups, that they're not safe for Democrats. So, what the Democrats are basically saying now, is let's get out of Washington; let's wrap up this Congress; let's go home to campaign, get the bill that's necessary to keep the government operating, going, and then forget about these tax cuts, forget about that fight and go home and spend the next 30 days campaigning.

INSKEEP: So, the question is not the generic polling across the country. It what happens in those few dozen or few score - or maybe even more - individual races across the country. I do have to mention though, Cokie, one advantage the Democrats keep saying they have is that while people are unhappy with Democrats, they don't seem particularly thrilled with Republicans either.

ROBERTS: Well, and the Republicans tried to answer that at the end of last week, because one of the reasons that they are in trouble is that this label of the party of no has been sticking to them to some degree. And so, at the end of the week, as you know, they came out with their Pledge to America.

Now, policy analysts are dismissing it because they say there's nothing serious about the deficit there, and that's one of the things that a lot of voters are complaining about. The question is whether it has any political value. Do voters, you know, look at it and say, well, now this is the party I can get behind.

I somewhat doubt that, but it does give the Republicans the ability to say they're not just the party of no. I can't imagine many people really care at this point, Steve. I think that all they care about is - are you in office or are you out of office? But if people do care, the Republicans now have something to show.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much, as always. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts who joins us most Monday mornings.

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