Why Are Obama's Polls Slipping?

Today's presidential press conference was supposed to be held in the Rose Garden, but it got canceled because of the heat. I suspect this was less a tender concern about the press corps, which would have to be seated long in advance of the president, and not wanting the president to sweat and drip on camera.

Obama's poll numbers have been going down, although they remain high. Why are they going down? A lot of it seems to have to do with spending and government intervention in the economy, which has roused fears of independents. 70 percent of respondents in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said that they were concerned "a great deal" or "quite a bit" about the GM takeover.

I have a slightly different spin on this, which is that it's the spending and the modest success it seems to have brought in stopping the total collapse of the banking and financial system. If the economy felt like it was in the same free fall that it was a few months ago, he'd be doing better because there'd be less questioning of government spending and more calls to pour everything on the fire. But with the respite in the fall comes the freedom to question spending. Or, to put it another way: The firemen saved your house but now you're pissed off about all the water damage in the den.

That applies to Ben Bernanke, who raised questions about the deficit in his last testimony before Congress, and its true of the public. It's a paradox: If things were worse, Obama would be doing better. At this point, more economic decline isn't going to help Obama. More green shoots will, or passing health care reform or a good foreign policy showdown.

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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