White House

In Fight for Jobs Bill, Are Americans Tuning Obama Out?

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National Journal Staff
Nov. 7, 2011, 7:23 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama’s call to ac­tion on his jobs plan hasn’t yet drawn the same con­cen­trated re­sponse as when he asked voters to put pres­sure on law­makers to vote on the debt-ceil­ing deal. His sum­mer­time ap­peal yiel­ded a flood of calls to the Hill, jam­ming phone lines. The people spoke and, be­cause of that and a pleth­ora of oth­er reas­ons, Con­gress voted.

In the latest is­sue of Na­tion­al Journ­al, cor­res­pond­ent George E. Con­don Jr. ex­plores wheth­er Pres­id­ent Obama has lessened his im­pact by grant­ing so many tele­vi­sion in­ter­views and mak­ing nu­mer­ous speeches. When it comes to util­iz­ing the bully pul­pit, is less more? Two-time White House press sec­ret­ary Marlin Fitzwa­ter think so. Con­don writes:

At a news con­fer­ence last month, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked the pres­id­ent if he is wor­ried that his “powers of per­sua­sion” have waned. While Obama brushed off the ques­tion, his shift to the “We Can’t Wait” ap­proach sug­gests that his ori­gin­al ap­proach of lean­ing on voters to carry his mes­sage to law­makers wasn’t work­ing as well as hoped. Watch this mash-up of all of the speeches Obama has made since his joint ses­sion ad­dress when he in­tro­duced the jobs pack­age:

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 2792) }}

When it comes to his na­tion­ally tele­vised speeches, the pres­id­ent’s draw­ing power isn’t what it used to be. The huge audi­ences of late 2008 and early 2009 have, for the most part, been cut in half:

His so­cial-me­dia growth has slowed as well. Con­don spoke with Alex Howard, the Gov­ern­ment 2.0 cor­res­pond­ent at O’Re­illy Me­dia, which tracks so­cial me­dia:

Obama has giv­en far more tele­vi­sion in­ter­views than his four im­me­di­ate pre­de­cessors com­bined at the same point in their terms:

Still, oth­ers think that Obama is on to something. Con­don re­ports:

“It is more true now than ever that you need to keep talk­ing about what your vis­ion is, what your pro­pos­als are, what your policies are — again and again and again,” ar­gued a seni­or White House of­fi­cial who asked not to be named. “It is not enough to just give a speech, one speech. You have to get out there, and you have to con­tin­ue to talk about it.”

“I think people are still listen­ing to him,” con­curred Tad Dev­ine, an in­flu­en­tial Demo­crat­ic strategist who worked for [Pres­id­ent] Carter in 1980. He said that the White House’s fail­ure in polit­ic­al com­mu­nic­a­tions has been its in­ab­il­ity to dis­till the pres­id­ent’s mes­sage to more-un­der­stand­able terms. But now, Dev­ine said, Obama can make his case in one sen­tence: “I’ve got a plan, and they won’t let it go in­to law be­cause they are only in­ter­ested in stop­ping me, and not in help­ing you.”

Contributions by Video by Theresa Poulson

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