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With Obama in Brazil and Biden fundraising, U.S. voters give them record low approval on the economy

March 21, 2011 |  3:12 am

the Obamas visit the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio 3-20-11

A new national poll finds American voters give President Obama a record low approval for his handling of the U.S. economy.

With barely 19 months left until the next presidential election, fewer than 1 in 3 American voters approve of the Obama administration's economic job.

Strange too because, even during the president's relentless drive to pass his massive healthcare legislation, the Democrat said the economy and creating jobs was his top priority. So important is the economy that Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to drive the stimulating $787-billion spending plans that were to keep unemployment below 8%, instead of around 9% and 10%.

Fourteen months ago when angry Massachusetts voters elected their first ....

... Republican senator in four decades, Obama said the economy and jobs were then at the top of his agenda. And last spring and summer, while campaigning for more than 100 Democratic House candidates, Biden often vowed that any day now the economy would be creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs every month.

In November, when midterm voters ordered a historic party shift in the House and delivered what Obama called a "shellacking" to him and his Democratic Party, the president said jobs were Job One. And that was also a major reason he gave for caving to Republican demands in December to extend those dad-burned Bush tax cuts, to help stimulate the economy.president Obama shares a champagne toast with Brazil president Dilma Rousseff 3-19-11

For some reason, the huge Democratic majorities in Congress last year didn't get around to passing a federal budget for the fiscal year now almost half over.

So now the new GOP House majority can throw its fiscally conservative weight around, demanding $2 billion in spending cuts per week in return for extending federal spending authority.

Obama's been busy with a series of White House parties, talking up education spending and denouncing schoolyard bullying. So, he assigned Biden to head bipartisan budget negotiations.

But wouldn't you know, the VP, his wife and granddaughter had to go to Finland, Russia and Moldova just then.

So those talks came down to the wire last week before a three-week extension passed. Obama managed to sign it before heading off to South America with his family for this week and ordering U.S. military action against Libya.

After visiting Rio's famous Christ the Redeemer statue site Sunday night, the Obamas fly over to Chile this morning for meetings, a speech, of course, parties and another official dinner banquet.

Biden obviously can't do anything on the budget talks today because he's due to visit a high school near his Delaware home to salute an administration program.

And then this afternoon Biden has to speak at another Democratic Party fundraiser up in Boston.

So, it's anybody's guess why only 31% of Americans approve of the pair's focus on the economy, according to the new national poll.

That's down 3 points, or 10%, in just one week and the lowest approval since Obama's early 2009 inauguration.

Inexplicably, a whopping 45% now say Obama's doing a poor job on the economy. Older voters, who also happen to be the most reliable voteObama in Brazil acknowledges fans after a speech 3-20-11rs, are the most critical of the Democrat.

In other economic surveys:

The economy is by far Americans' top concern, Gallup reports this morning, with nearly 3 of 4 worrying "a great deal" about it. The second concern (nearly 2 of 3) is the federal deficit and spending, or as Obama calls it "investing."

Less than 45% of homeowners expect their largest personal investment to increase in value during the next 60 months.

Nearly half of all voters believe America's best days are behind it, the most pessimism since last July.

Only 1 of 3  American workers expect to earn more money next year, the lowest level in about two years.

Only 22% of likely voters think the country is on the right track, the lowest level since before Obama's inauguration. Conversely, more than 7 in 10 voters say the country is on the wrong track, the highest level since those final few failed days of George W. Bush's two terms.

Although majorities in all three countries on Obama's itinerary still approve of him, Gallup finds the approval ratings have dipped there too, in some cases significantly.

In Brazil, Obama's approval is 55%, down 6 points. In Chile, it's 67%, down 5 points. In his final stop, El Salvador, 61% approve of the American president, down 23 points.

Related:

In Brazil, Obama orders attack on Libya: 'Actions have consequences'

In Rio, Obama marks Iran's Nowruz holiday again

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press (Obama family visits Rio's famous Christ the Redeemer statue Sunday night); Roberto Stucker Filho / EPA (Obama shares a champagne toast with Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff); Victor R. Caivano / Associated Press (Obama acknowledges fans after a Rio speech).

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