Though BP managed to stop the spread of oil from its broken well last week, President Obama has been able to do little to stop the drop in his public approval ratings, which now, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, hover just above 40 percent. Add these numbers to the comment by Robert Gibbs, the president’s press secretary, that Democrats could lose control of the House in the November elections, and it equals trouble for the president in 2012. So what does Mr. Obama need to do to shore up his base, woo back independent voters and win a second term? The Op-Ed editors asked political experts to suggest a few plans of attack.
By MARK PENN, adviser and pollster to the 1996 Clinton campaign and chief executive of Burson-Marsteller
The most important thing President Obama can do, as Bill Clinton did during his first term, is retake ownership of the center — the voters who elected him but now feel he has moved too far to the left. That means making a real down payment on the deficit, revamping the health care act to address the cost issue, opening up new markets overseas and creating jobs by promoting innovation through spending on basic research.
Rather than cut the space program, he should double its size. He should make sure that every American with a broadband connection has access to online education. He should offer research grants and tax incentives to promote investment in our coal, natural gas and biofuel resources, as well as wind and solar energy.
Voters will re-elect President Obama only if they believe that America is on the move, creating and building things. Homeownership is still a vital part of the American dream and must remain a goal of his administration, despite the housing crisis. And he should work with both parties to come to a reasonable compromise on immigration reform, one that would create a clearer path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and effectively control the borders.
After the midterms, President Obama will likely face the same decision that President Clinton faced in 1994 — to stay the course on the left or return to the center. His choice could be the difference between a one-term presidency and four more years governing with the coalition that elected him.