Weekly Kos Poll, GOP Still at 16 Percent, Messaging the Economy

The weekly Kos track has the landscape essentially unchanged this week - Obama strong,Congressional Dems in an improved position, the Congressional GOP at catastrophically low levels. 

The Congessional GOP is at 16 percent approval this week.   Recalling that John McCain received 46 percent of the vote last year, 30 percent of the country is now in a position to have voted for McCain in 2008 and be currently disapproving of the Congressional GOP.   At some point the national media is going to come to terms with how incredibly unpopular, ineffective and intellectually bankrupt the modern GOP is today.  Only a few times in this past century has a poltical party in the United States been so unpopular.  

So Obama has prevailed in this first round.  But a new and very important round of public engagement with Congress and the GOP begins now.  For the next month or so, even while the Administration starts to very publically engage with the rest of the world (G20, Summit of the Americas, Biden and Clinton trips), there will be a very consequential battle over the President's budget.  

The President begins this next round in very good shape.  But my sense is that the Administration will have to do a better job now at distilling down to the essence of what they are asking the country to do - is it recovery? To invest in the future? Get the budget under control? Tame Washington? I think the President's plan needs a name and single message.  Not sure it should be "recovery,"  Do we really believe the country wants to go back to where we were - 81 percent wrong track? No.  Increasingly I get the sense that these economic and fiscal terms - recovery, stimulus, deficits, investment, budget plan - are the wrong words for this next phase.  Feels like it should be more about adopting the President's plan for America; embracing the President's strategy for a strong America in the 21st century; etc.

In reviewing the budget blueprint, it is clear that the President has a far-sighted plan to ensure America prospers in the 21st century.  That is what we are going to debate over the next month - and all components of it are means to the end, and not the end in itself.  What the Obama team must do at all costs is to prevent the GOP from doing what is has done so effectively these past few years and reduce this big conversation on what our economic strategy for the future needs to be into a overly simplistic debate about numbers, deficits and taxes.  All of that is tactical, means to an end - and that end is broad based growth, a strong America, a successful America of the 21st century.  Remember that in the Clinton era we raised taxes on the wealthiest among us and saw extraordinary growth and broad-based prosperity.  In the Bush era we radically cut taxes for the wealthiest and saw the incomes of every day people decline.  Tax rates are only part of the overall strategy our nation uses to create growth, broadly shared, and this old canard that tax cuts automatically create growth has been disproven once and for all.  

Larry Summers began laying out the terms of this next debate in an important speech yesterday.  But I still feel what is missing in the emerging Obama argument is 1) old bad economy vs new better economy - a forward/backward main thrust vs the concept of recovery; 2) we still have not done nearly enough to account for and explain why incomes went down during the years of recovery before this recent recession.  There is a mountain of data that shows that for the American people this period of losing ground was traumatic, that it helped drive the wrong track number to 81 percent, the highest ever recorded, prior to the recession and financial crisis.  For many Americans what this means is that we don't need recovery - a return to a period of declining wages - or growth which excluded them - but we need a different and better type of growth that this time, now, raises all boats and helps them manage this more competitive economy of this new century.  What we need is a new and better economy; an economic strategy for the 21st century; a strong plan for a strong America; a plan to make globalization work for all Americans, etc.  

The idea that we had growth under the GOP that saw a declining standard of living for the typical American family is the strongest rationale for the plan the President is promoting.  In this much more competitive economy of the 21st century America will need to invest more be smarter and try harder to maintain our standard of living.  We will need to equip America to be successful in a very different 21st economy - one that must be more energy effecient, low-carbon at its base, is technology tense, and globally competitive and interconnected.  For America Inc. to propser in that economy we need a new and comprehensive strategy; one that invests in our infrastructure and people; that encourages accelerates innovation and new job creation; that cuts health care costs and encourages better health; that modernizes our electricity network, invests in renewable energy sources and makes a national crusade to make our homes and businesses more energy effecient.  

All of this will take time, years in fact.  But in his desire to be honest with the American people it is critical for the President to continue to emphasize the long term structural changes and investments we are making, and to not let short term metrics like "recovery," "stimulus" or the stock market be the way he defines success.  A tall order all this, but it is one I truly believe the President is up for.  The real question is - is Congress?