(photo: Alasdair Middleton, www.universalnewsandsport.com)

The political theory behind the American Jobs Act is that the President would offer a popular series of job creation measures, get his party and then the public behind them, and pressure Republicans to allow something to get through. In theory, if the programs were well-enough articulated and the Democratic coalition was singing off the same songbook, this could work. Or at least, it would work in political terms, to draw differences between the parties that may bear fruit in elections, if not in immediate policymaking.

So how is that working out? Well, some polls show that Obama’s personal approval ratings are slightly improved. It’s statistical noise more than anything, though in this Reuters/Ipsos poll he holds a lead over the Republican Presidential candidates. He is also seen as a better bet than Congressional Republicans on the economy, according to CNN. But as for the favorability ratings of the plan, the public is skeptical on whether the American Jobs Act would do too much to create jobs:

The downbeat assessment of the American Jobs Act reflects a growing and broad sense of dissatisfaction with the president. Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy by 62 percent to 33 percent, a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 9-12 shows. The disapproval number represents a nine point increase from six months ago […]

By a margin of 51 percent to 40 percent, Americans doubt the package of tax cuts and spending proposals intended to jumpstart job creation that Obama submitted to Congress this week will bring down the 9.1 percent jobless rate. That sentiment undermines one of the core arguments the president is making on the job act’s behalf in a nationwide campaign to build public support.

Compounding Obama’s challenge is that 56 percent of independents, whom the president won in 2008 and will need to win in 2012, are skeptical it will work.

The CNN poll showed more of a plurality support for the jobs bill, but did not ask whether people thought it would actually lower the unemployment rate. Press Secretary Jay Carney responded that half of the public thought the plan would create jobs, and that’s a good start. But that’s not really true if the entire political strategy is to build mass public pressure. Middling numbers and doubting of the effectiveness doesn’t do the job. [cont’d.]

That’s especially true if the Democrats who will end up voting on the program instead go out and savage it:

“Terrible,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told POLITICO when asked about the president’s ideas for how to pay for the $450 billion price tag. “We shouldn’t increase taxes on ordinary income. … There are other ways to get there.”

“That offset is not going to fly, and he should know that,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu from the energy-producing Louisiana, referring to Obama’s elimination of oil and gas subsidies. “Maybe it’s just for his election, which I hope isn’t the case.”

“I think the best jobs bill that can be passed is a comprehensive long-term deficit-reduction plan,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), discussing proposals to slash the debt by $4 trillion by overhauling entitlement programs and raising revenue through tax reforms. “That’s better than everything else the president is talking about — combined.”

What Blue Dogs remain in Congress disputed the entire premise of the American Jobs Act, favoring an approach of “going big” in the Super Committee on cutting the deficit.

The whole idea, then, was to put together institutional Democratic support and mass popular support and use it to leverage pressure on Republicans. Institutional Democrats don’t want anything to do with the bill, and the public reaction is mixed at best. So Obama is left to say things like “If you love me, you’ve got to help me pass this bill.’ And there’s a wish and a hope that John Boehner needs his own win and will therefore work with the President on jobs. I think the last three years have disproven this chimera.

The political theory behind the American Jobs Act is that the President would offer a popular series of job creation measures, get his party and then the public behind them, and pressure Republicans to allow something to get through. In theory, if the programs were well-enough articulated and the Democratic coalition was singing off the same songbook, this could work. Or at least, it would work in political terms, to draw differences between the parties that may bear fruit in elections, if not in immediate policymaking.

So how is that working out? Well, some polls show that Obama’s personal approval ratings are slightly improved. It’s statistical noise more than anything, though in this Reuters/Ipsos poll he holds a lead over the Republican Presidential candidates. He is also seen as a better bet than Congressional Republicans on the economy, according to CNN. But as for the favorability ratings of the plan, the public is skeptical on whether the American Jobs Act would do too much to create jobs:

The downbeat assessment of the American Jobs Act reflects a growing and broad sense of dissatisfaction with the president. Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy by 62 percent to 33 percent, a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 9-12 shows. The disapproval number represents a nine point increase from six months ago […]

By a margin of 51 percent to 40 percent, Americans doubt the package of tax cuts and spending proposals intended to jumpstart job creation that Obama submitted to Congress this week will bring down the 9.1 percent jobless rate. That sentiment undermines one of the core arguments the president is making on the job act’s behalf in a nationwide campaign to build public support.

Compounding Obama’s challenge is that 56 percent of independents, whom the president won in 2008 and will need to win in 2012, are skeptical it will work.

The CNN poll showed more of a plurality support for the jobs bill, but did not ask whether people thought it would actually lower the unemployment rate. Press Secretary Jay Carney responded that half of the public thought the plan would create jobs, and that’s a good start. But that’s not really true if the entire political strategy is to build mass public pressure. Middling numbers and doubting of the effectiveness doesn’t do the job.

That’s especially true if the Democrats who will end up voting on the program instead go out and savage it:

“Terrible,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told POLITICO when asked about the president’s ideas for how to pay for the $450 billion price tag. “We shouldn’t increase taxes on ordinary income. … There are other ways to get there.”

“That offset is not going to fly, and he should know that,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu from the energy-producing Louisiana, referring to Obama’s elimination of oil and gas subsidies. “Maybe it’s just for his election, which I hope isn’t the case.”

“I think the best jobs bill that can be passed is a comprehensive long-term deficit-reduction plan,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), discussing proposals to slash the debt by $4 trillion by overhauling entitlement programs and raising revenue through tax reforms. “That’s better than everything else the president is talking about — combined.”

What Blue Dogs remain in Congress disputed the entire premise of the American Jobs Act, favoring an approach of “going big” in the Super Committee on cutting the deficit.

The whole idea, then, was to put together institutional Democratic support and mass popular support and use it to leverage pressure on Republicans. Institutional Democrats don’t want anything to do with the bill, and the public reaction is mixed at best. So Obama is left to say things like “If you love me, you’ve got to help me pass this bill.’ And there’s a wish and a hope that John Boehner needs his own win and will therefore work with the President on jobs. I think the last three years have disproven this chimera.

David Dayen

David Dayen