The Magazine

The Unpersuasive Orator

Obama may sound good, but he doesn't close the sale.

Jun 8, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 36 • By FRED BARNES
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The stimulus lost 10 points in public approval after it was enacted last winter. Only 34 percent of Americans in a Rasmussen survey last March felt it would help the economy. That sentiment is roughly unchanged today.

And there's a stimulus-related problem: fear of excessive government spending. Obama says he's pursuing "fiscal responsibility." But in a Gallup poll, 55 percent said his proposals call for "too much spending." And 53 percent now believe spending hikes are hurting the economy, up from 48 percent in February, according to a Rasmussen poll last week.

Two other findings by Rasmussen underscore the concern over Obama's spending plans. Seventy-four percent now prefer fewer government services and lower taxes. And 77 percent believe the unwillingness of politicians to control spending is a bigger problem than the public's unwillingness to pay higher taxes.

Obama shouldn't be blamed for the unpopularity of policies he inherited on bank bailouts and financial aid to General Motors and Chrysler. But it's noteworthy that while continuing the bailouts, he's been singularly unsuccessful in softening public opposition. In a Rasmussen survey, 60 percent disapproved of aid to auto companies and 59 percent to bailing out banks.

There's an inescapable conclusion in all this: Obama's reputation as a convincing speaker is overrated. He may sound like an effective salesman, but the only product Americans are buying is Obama himself. And that sale isn't yet final.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.