Stimulus Puts Obama in Tough Territory

Is the White House’s well-oiled communications machine coming undone less than six months after President Obama took office?

Based on the past few days of mounting criticism regarding Obama’s top achievement — passage of the $787 billion stimulus — it appears that cracks are beginning to form. The administration wants to avoid distractions from its quest for government-run health care, but the mismanaged stimulus, combined with 9.5% unemployment, make it difficult.

Conservatives should not let this opportunity go to waste.

It started last Thursday with news that unemployment reached its highest level in 26 years. Vice President Joe Biden’s admission Sunday that the administration “misread the economy” prompted Obama to interrupt his scripted Russia trip to clarify Biden’s gaffe. “Rather than say ‘misread,’ we had incomplete information,” Obama told NBC’s Chuck Todd.

There was more bad news today with a Government Accountability Report that contradicted Obama’s own statements about the stimulus. The GAO report even prompted the president’s die-hard supporters at the Center for American Progress to disagree with Obama whether the stimulus should be used to prevent layoffs or pay for longer-term projects to boost the economy.

Perhaps the strongest signal that the administration is nervous came yesterday afternoon when Biden’s office announced a panicked trip to Ohio in the wake of new polling from Quinnipiac University. Obama’s approval rating in Ohio over the past two months dropped from 62% to 49%. It took an even bigger dip among Ohio independents, falling from 59 percent to 38 percent. The president’s ratings on the economy are even worse.

Meanwhile, Republicans are capitalizing on the administration’s missteps by directing their fire at the stimulus.

“This is the greatest fabrication I’ve seen since I’ve been in Congress,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said of Obama’s claim that he had “incomplete information” about the economy. Boehner has made a mockery of the stimulus by enlisting a bloodhound to track down jobs.

At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing today, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) accused the administration of having “rigged the game in its own favor” by repeatedly citing the “jobs saved” claim Obama loves to trumpet.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the House Republican Conference, attacked Obama’s July 1 claim that the stimulus had “done its job” in a new web video that promotes a GOP alternative.

Unlike other issues where Republicans capitulated, the stimulus passed the House without a single GOP vote. Now is the time to hang this around Obama’s neck and watch him sink.