"Overexposed" Obama In Danger Of Rising Poll Numbers

[ Posted Monday, September 21st, 2009 – 16:13 UTC ]

The chattering classes inside the Washington Beltway have decided amongst themselves that when all else fails, they can always revert to their "least common denominator" story about President Barack Obama -- that he is in danger of being "overexposed." You don't have to look very far to find this viewpoint on television, in print, or on the radio. It's like talking about the weather, for the political punditocracy. There's only one problem -- there's not a shred of evidence to back up the idea that President Obama using the bully pulpit (as often as he likes) is somehow a bad thing for him. But that doesn't stop it from being talked about endlessly, whenever Obama is in the same Zip code as a news camera.

To be fair, Obama was all over the Sunday morning talk shows this week. [Amusing note: This used to be called "the full Ginsburg," in reference to the first person to ever appear on all the talk shows in one week (Ginsburg was Monica Lewinsky's lawyer), but few remember this catchy term these days, I guess.] In any case, Obama was following up a recent speech to a joint session of Congress, and so the "overexposed" storyline was trotted out again by the media.

The funniest of all of these tut-tuttings from the media was on "Fox News Sunday" (my motto: "I watch it so you don't have to"). At the start of their panel of "journalists," this was the first talking point out of the box (Brit Hume: "[Obama] risks overexposure and I think, in addition to that, this [i.e., the Sunday media blitz] isn't working").

They then pivoted -- without the slightest hint of irony -- to exploring why Obama really, really should have appeared on "Fox News Sunday." To sum up: Obama is dangerously overexposed, and he made a big mistake by not coming on our show, too. I am always astonished at the Republican propensity for doublethink, but this was a new one on me, I have to admit.

A little background is necessary here. Fox refused to show Obama's speech to Congress, and instead ran one of those contest/reality shows. All the other networks ran Obama's speech, but Fox did not (their cable branch did, but not the broadcast channel). So the White House snub of Fox was definitely deserved. This is actually par for the course in normal media/White House relations (for any president, in fact, no matter the party). The White House was not shy about pointing this out, after the Fox News Sunday host said before the weekend that the Obama administration was "the biggest bunch of crybabies" he'd ever dealt with. The White House released their own statement concerning why the president wasn't appearing on Fox this week: "We figured Fox would rather show ‘So You Think You Can Dance' than broadcast an honest discussion about health insurance reform. Fox is an ideological outlet where the president has been interviewed before and will likely be interviewed again, not that the whining particularly strengthens their case for participation any time soon."

Heh heh. Gotta admit, that still makes me chuckle.

Ahem. But getting back to reality (away from Fox, in other words), virtually nobody mentioned what has been happening to Obama's poll numbers of late. In July and August, when Obama was largely absent from the national stage in the healthcare reform debate, his poll numbers took a serious dive. Since he spoke to Congress, his approval rating has been inching back up again. Meaning that the "danger" of "overexposure" is that people start supporting him in larger numbers. Oh, the horror!

Now, that's a pretty sweeping generalization, I realize. And I could be eventually proven wrong on this. The movement within the polls is admittedly only a few percentage points -- within the margin of error, in most cases. You can check the daily graph at RealClearPolitics to see the current state of things, and then decide for yourself. But this is why I normally don't comment on day-to-day polling, instead covering each month (at after it happens -- one little blip in a poll line does not a trend make, in other words (which is the danger of watching polls too closely). But still, this chart shows a definite end to Obama's slide in the polls, although it may be too early to tell whether he's just plateau-ed at the low 50s, or whether he has indeed turned it around and is heading north of 55 again soon. Time will tell.

But even if Obama has turned things around and starts posting numbers between 55 and 60, don't expect the media to realize that their entire "overexposed" story has been turned on its head. One bright moment of reality did intrude on Fox News Sunday last week, when Mara Liasson, in response to the question of whether the White House thinks Obama is overexposed, said (the transcript I read had an extraneous "not" in Liasson's second paragraph, which I removed only after checking the tape, to verify that she had not indeed said it):

No, they don't worry about overexposure, and they're asked this a lot. I mean, I think he is hugely exposed. There's no doubt about it. He's exposed more than any other president, by design.

But this notion that he's overexposed says that if somehow he was out there less, his policies would be doing better, and I don't think that's true. If he doesn't get everything he wants in health care, it's not going to be because he was on TV too much.

I do think that we are in a different media environment now, and they believe strongly that the media environment is so fractured that he has to try to reach every single audience wherever he can, whenever he can.

And also, they believe that when he does talk in a big set-piece speech like the address to the joint session of Congress that it does help him. And as a matter of fact, we have seen in polling since then that some of the disparity in intensity between the people who were for his health care plans and against them has leveled off. So I think -- they think this does him good.

Of course, she had to qualify that last point, from "I think this does him good" or even (gasp) a factual statement of "this does him good," to "they [the White House] think this does him good."

Needless to say, no matter how she put it, the Fox gaggle immediately ignored her point, and went on to discuss why Obama should have overexposed himself even more by coming on their show.

Now, opinion polls take a few days to ask their questions of the public, and then a day or so to crunch numbers. So we won't see this Sunday's appearance reflected in the opinion polls until -- at a minimum -- the end of this week. If his numbers go up even further, the media will drop (until next time Obama appears on any camera anywhere) the "overexposed" storyline, likely in favor of another one of their perennial favorites: "The Comeback Kid." Assuming, of course, that the media actually notices what is going on, which is a pretty big assumption these days, I have to admit.

After watching the media long enough and closely enough, these things actually become pretty easy to predict. For everyone watching. But not, apparently, for the groupthink which passes itself off as "journalism" on our nation's airwaves.


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


11 Comments on “"Overexposed" Obama In Danger Of Rising Poll Numbers”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Little bit of trivia here for you.

    In his first 8 months of office, Obama has appeared on television more times than Bush and Clinton, in their entire presidencies.... COMBINED..

    Now, I don't know if the word for that is "over exposed"...

    But it sure is noteworthy..

    But, here's a question.

    Has anything REALLY changed in the DunselCare debate??

    Has there been ANYTHING 'taken off the table'??

    It seems to me that, in the here and now, DunselCare is no better defined than it was the day before Obama's joint address.

    So, while Obama may be here and there and every where and up the streets and down the stairs, he really isn't saying anything new. The same old vague "I like this, but...." and "I don't like that, but....".

    So, what's changed???

    Zero, Zilch, Nada, Nothing...


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    "Overexposed" Obama In Danger Of Rising Poll Numbers

    I know I am jumping the gun a bit (AGAIN... :D) but if you want to talk polls.. :D

    GALLUP: Only Clinton rating at this point in presidency lower than Obama's...

    Granted, this doesn't address the issue of Obama's poll numbers rising a tad of late, so you are right in that context...

    But it is an interesting fact, furthertheless..


  3. [3] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    The DOW is inching up to 10,000. In the winter when the DOW was flirting with 7000 many a conservative pundit basically said: as goes the DOW so goes Obama's presidency. I am really curious how this will be spun by said pundits once the DOW stays above that psychological barrier. How it will effect Obama's poll numbers and will Bush get some of the deserved credit.

    It's interesting that many reports coming out show that the economic response was not over blown. That we really did dodge a serious bullet as we came very close to a real depression. And the fix was very bipartisan in nature. Both Bush's and Obama's stimulus packages and other fixes were required to avoid that depression.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:


    I see your point and, yes. In a way, it's a good thing that the system has recovered.

    But, consider this.

    It's generally agreed that the economy is flawed and in desperate need of "FIXING" and not just tweaking..

    So, this begs the question.

    Is it a GOOD thing that a bad economy is recovering?

    Or would the BETTER thing be to let it all collapse and then rebuild a better system??


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    On another note, I am somewhat surprised (not really) that the MSM has not made the connection between the recent terrorist arrests and heightened terrorist threat in NY with the gaggle of world leaders also in New York including President Obama.


  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    And the hits just keep on coming....

    First ACORN and now the NEA...

    Ya know, it's really a good thing that Obama had sky high ratings to start...

    If he hadn't, his entire administration would have been sunk by now...


  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    BashiBazouk -

    I've been wondering the same thing for a few weeks now. The media largely yawned and shrugged its shoulders when the Dow hit 9,000, so it'll be interesting to see what they do at 10K. It's more of a "round number" and all of that, so they're pretty much going to have to say SOMEthing about it.

    I, too, remember all those "Obama's presidency is a failure, the Dow keeps going down" stories, and have been waiting for them to use the same yardstick to measure it going back up.

    We'll see, probably in a week or so... but you bring up a good point indeed.


  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, Toles' latest cartoon says much what I was trying to say, although he's a lot funnier, I have to admit.


  9. [9] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Heheh. Screw the polls!

    Polls are like the stock market- very short term and near-sighted.

    The bigger question should be are we doing what's right for the long term. And I'd agree w/ you, Michale, that we haven't done enough to reform the economy. Alas, I feel history will repeat itself (though I think letting it collapse was not really an option).

    Love Toles cartoon. It shows the Democratic dilemma which is, get blamed no matter what. So once again, screw the polls! :)


  10. [10] 
    akadjian wrote:

    p.s. On the subject of humor, here's a hilarious video w/ Will Ferrell on who the real health care victims are ...

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    What was that about indoctrinating kids in school??


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