In the latest round of polling, President Obama seems to have finally hit a wall. As the excitement of his inauguration fades away, as does the relief that George W. Bush is no longer in the White House, the President's finding out what it's like to own the nation's problems. The result? People still like him in general (63 percent job approval - New York Times; 61 percent - Pew), but more and more, people aren't seeing enough results on the economy to approve of what he's done so far when you get specific to that (52 percent approve, 40 percent disapprove, up from 24 percent in February - Pew; 57 percent approve, 35 disapprove, up from 24 in Feb - NYT).
That's no surprise. The President sprinted out of the gate, threw everything he had at the economy. But, in the era of instant gratification, letting the President's economic plans take root and grow doesn't lend itself to an immediate impact (or good poll numbers).
Now, the good news is there's no reason to freak - this is not a solid brick wall, it's only a runner's wall that he can overcome -- if he has the will.
This much is clear - for the President to get his second wind to move ahead, he needs a big victory that has tangible, positive, and quick results. There's only one such thing on the horizon - health care reform with a public option.
Now, as the President has also learned, nothing meaningful will survive "bi-partisanship." The old days are dead, and the Republicans have no interest in bringing them back. There is no way in hell that Republicans will let the President give the American people what they want - a public option in health reform (76 percent approval - NBC/Wall St. Journal). There's no way they'll let him have anything, really, that people will see quick results from, and be happy with. In short, they ain't gonna help him. As far as few conservative Democrats, bought and paid for by the insurance industry, it doesn't matter how much the President "bends" to them, he won't get all of them because the insurance industry won't let him. Breaking a filibuster with 60 votes is impossible, unless the "reform" up for a vote is a complete sham.
So, what's left? For the President to "force" a strong proposal through, using the budget reconciliation process, which forbids filibusters.
Oh sure, Republicans will moan. The conservative Democrats, trying to look quote-unquote "moderate," will whine. But, you know what? People will get the insurance reforms they want, and which will benefit them relatively quickly. The result won't just be good policy, but will serve as a shot in the arm for the President, boosting his poll numbers across the board, especially in how he's seen on issues related to the economy.
But, it's not just about popularity. Increasing his numbers on the economy and health care erases any emboldened feelings Republicans might be experiencing by this "wall" in the polls (as well as some chest-puffing from cranky conservative Democrats). The President will also get a boost in political capital, giving him that second breath, allowing him the ability to push ahead on other important areas of his agenda.
On the other hand, giving in on that point - presenting the American people with something called "reform" that is anything but - could severely erode public confidence in the President, and deflate his political capital, until his chits are on par with the Peso. At that point, he might as well head for the bench, because he could be permanently out of the race.