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Shut the Oval Office, Obama's out campaigning again today

September 15, 2009 |  2:22 am

Democrat president Barack Obama aboard Air Force One

Now that he's reportedly called Kanye West a "jackass" -- unofficially, of course -- President Obama forsakes the sedentary business of governing again today to head back out on the campaign trail, which is more fun anyway in his profession.

On Monday the president flew to New York City to straighten out the financial mess one year after it blew up and to issue new warnings and announce new regulatory efforts.

Today he's on the road again. He'll make three stops -- one in Ohio and two in Pennsylvania, including his newly adopted favorite city of Pittsburgh. In Ohio, the president will talk economy with auto workers and, as he did Monday in New York, likely profess that he sees more signs the hard times are truly ending.

Not an easy argument for anyone to make, even if they are eloquent, with unemployment still above 9%. And the anxiety and fears almost palpable among many.

This morning the new Washington Post-ABC News Poll reveals that Americans aren't buying Obama's assertion of economic improvement, at least not yet. The results show only 51% approve of the....

...freshman president's handling of the economy while an even worse 39% approve of his job addressing -- or not addressing --  the gargantuan federal deficits projected way out past Obama's two terms.

Nearly 60% of Americans, according to the poll, are worried over job losses and pay cuts in coming months. This is not usually fertile ground for acceptance of the kind of major, ill-defined, costly changes that Obama seeks to impose in so many areas.

In Pittsburgh, Obama, having just slapped special tariffs on Chinese tires, will be heartily welcomed by his union pals at the AFL-CIO convention.

And then it's on to Philadelphia to keep part of his promise to campaign for ex-Republican-now-Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter. There, the president will appear at a reception and fundraiser for Specter, who would really like a sixth Senate term. But he's facing a rigorous primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak, despite the Democrat president's support.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the struggle over healthcare reform measures has been recently overshadowed by public debate over whether the weekend crowd of D.C. tea-partyers was either something like 60,000 or 2 million.

Also being argued: the outrageous impropriety or courageous lone voice of Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who called the president a liar over healthcare reform coverage of illegal immigrants. (They aren't covered, but there's no way specified in the legislation to check a patient's immigration status.)

The president calls these disputes media sideshows. And perhaps he means it. But they also serve him well from a strategic communications viewpoint.

By his unsolicited shout during Obama's address to a joint session of Congress, Republican Wilson handed Democrats an ideal distraction that's endured nearly a week already. (Think also Rush Limbaugh earlier this year.)

Remember back in August when members of Congress visited where they used to live and folks started looking at the actual details of the healthcare plans and sharing their detailed opinions out loud at town hall meetings? What happened then?

Poll support for the plan began to crumble, especially among independents who didn't realize they were voting for quite so much expensive change last November. The new polls also reveal, the more people know about the proposed reforms, the less they like them.

So the argument gets turned around to whether these unhappy town hallers were being rude or maybe even racist. Nevermind their specifics.

Now with the president off drawing attention touring two nearby states, the public argument in the Capitol is whether Wilson needs to re-apologize and he says no way and back and forth they go, all the while both sides raising money from the skimpy skirmish's gullible spectators.

While outside the spotlight, the committees quietly wrap up the details of the healthcare measures largely free of intense scrutiny.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Obama in new massage chair aboard Air Force One. Photo credit: White House
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