Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- The precipitous rise in Barack Obama's job disapproval numbers stunned the West Wing Monday and shook Democratic leaders. The president is getting failing scores on all of the politically pivotal issues: from a weak economy, high unemployment and skyrocketing gas prices to trillion-dollar budget deficits.

These are fundamental bread-and-butter election issues that have stopped Obama's momentum in his campaign for a second term and show no signs of improving anytime soon.

A nationwide Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed an angry electorate that is fed up with his presidency. Among his worst job disapproval numbers: 59 percent on the economy; 63 percent on the deficits; 65 percent on gas prices; and 52 percent on his hands-off handling of Iran's nuclear weapons threat.

What especially stunned Obama campaign strategists this week was the president's declining support among independents, who will likely decide who wins the election. Fifty-seven percent of them disapprove of his handling of the economy.

After that blow struck the White House in the morning, it took another big hit that night when a CBS-New York Times poll was released that said Obama's overall job approval rating had plummeted to 41 percent. Forty-seven percent said they disapproved of the job he was doing.

It was a sharp downfall for the president. A month ago, a CBS poll gave Obama a 50 percent approval score.

Notably, the Post's poll showed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney defeating Obama by 49 percent to 47 percent if the election were held today.

The Gallup Poll has shown Romney leading Obama by a much larger margin for several weeks -- 50 percent to 46 percent in its latest head-to-head matchup.

Obama's shrinking approval numbers on such a wide scope of issues showed that last month's unemployment report failed to impress voters. The reason: The massaged data coming out of Washington did not reflect the dismal job situation out in the real world.

Not only did the dubious 8.3 percent unemployment rate remain unchanged, there was significant evidence that for millions of Americans, the jobs picture had shown no improvement or had worsened.

The national news media ballyhooed the 227,000 new-jobs number, but the data behind that number showed that it was not all it was cracked up to be. Consider this dismal economic fact that The Washington Post buried in last week's story on the monthly job gains:

"The bulk of the job growth came in professional and business services, and more than half of those positions were in temporary employment."

Millions of discouraged workers are forced to work only part-time or fewer hours, when they need full-time jobs to make ends meet.

Americans harbor a healthy dose of cynicism about the government's 8.3 percent average national unemployment rate, because workers do not live in the world of averages. Sixteen states, including some of the largest, suffer jobless rates of between 9 percent and 13 percent.

"Factoring in discouraged adults (who have stopped looking for work) and others working part time for lack of full-time opportunities, the unemployment rate is about 14.9 percent," says University of Maryland economist Peter Morici. "Adding college graduates in low-skill positions, like counter work at Starbucks, and the unemployment rate is closer to 18 percent."

Soaring gasoline prices have also fueled the public's angst toward the president. The average price for a gallon of regular shot up 5 cents over the weekend to $3.80 -- the highest it's ever been at this time of the year.

In many parts of the country, the price of gas is more than $4, and some forecasters say the national average may climb as high as $4.25 by April.

That cuts deeply into tight consumer budgets, and for many motorists, wipes out the 2 percent payroll tax cut enacted to pump more liquidity and growth into Obama's lackluster economy.

Obama this week reiterated his excuse that there is "no silver bullet" to quickly boost tight oil supplies that would bring down gasoline prices.

Nevertheless, he could have put oil exploration and drilling policies in place at the start of his presidency that would have boosted both oil and gas supplies and could have made us energy independent by now.

Instead, his policies and his rhetoric have been hostile to exploration and drilling, placing moratoriums on offshore oil development and killing the Canadian-U.S. oil pipeline and the thousands of oil jobs along with it.

Instead, he's been pumping millions of tax dollars into alternative sources of fuel that are not economically viable. Obama talked recently about one project to turn algae into fuel. Newt Gingrich told voters at an energy summit in Biloxi, Miss., Monday that the "biggest issue this fall is going to be drilling versus algae."

It is worth noting that on Dec. 31, 2008, as George W. Bush was about to return to private life and Obama was preparing to take office, the average price of a gallon of regular was $1.61.

Now, with polls showing voters are blaming him for the soaring price of gas, Obama conducted a whirlwind round of interviews Monday with eight swing-state TV stations, offering a bevy of excuses but taking no blame for his anti-oil drilling policies.

Obama's presidency is clearly on the skids. He came into office promising to fix our biggest problems: a sick economy, $1.4 trillion deficits and energy dependence on foreign oil. Four years later, they still remain to be fixed.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.