Donald Lambro

The sluggish Obama economy added only 74,000 jobs in December, far below the 200,000 forecasters predicted. Key employment sectors saw big job losses: 16,000 in the construction industry, 6,000 lost in health care. Economists were shocked.

"What it does say is that we're not in a takeoff mode in the labor market... We're treading water," Julia Coronado, chief U.S.

economist at BNP Paribas, told The New York Times.

Obama praised manufacturing growth in his politically combative State of the Union address last week in which he predicted 2014 would be a "breakout year." But recent economic data tells a much different story.

Durable goods orders plunged precipitously in the month of December, as did a measurement of future business spending on capital goods. Top economists had expected the monthly manufacturing gauge to rise.

Then came another economic body blow this week when the Institute for Supply Management announced its index of national factory activity dropped to its lowest level since last May. That, plus a slowdown in construction spending and other global factors, sent stock markets into a nose dive, with the Dow plunging 326 points on Monday.

"U.S. manufacturing activity slowed sharply in January on the back of the biggest drop in new orders in years, suggesting the economy had lost steam at the start of 2014," Reuters economic news service reported.

So what does Obama do in the face of these dreadful economic signals, which suggest that the U.S. economy is not running on all cylinders and remains disturbingly weak in the sixth year of his presidency?

He goes before Congress to claim that we are doing a lot better, and that a few thimble-sized, policy adjustments are all that's needed to revitalize the economy.

One of them was raising the minimum wage. "It will give businesses customers with more money to spend," he said.

The Gallup Poll ran this idea by the American people last week in a survey to see what they thought of Obama's latest economic proposals. It didn't pass their smell test.

"Relatively few Americans mention the minimum wage as the best way to fix the U.S. economy, instead focusing on job creation and tax cuts," Gallup said.

Well, Gallup's polltakers asked, what did you think when Obama's said, "If we are serious about economic growth, it is time to... fix our broken immigration system."

Gallup found that immigration is a relatively low-priority for Americans. Only "three percent name immigration as the most important problem facing the nation."

Obamacare also won a thumbs down in the poll. Only 38 percent said they they approved of the law, while 54 percent said "it will have a more negative effect on them and on the country in the future."

Obama mentioned his unpopular health care plan only briefly in his speech to Congress, a clear sign the White House fears its negative impact in this election year.

A little-noticed but politically important Gallup survey said Republicans have made "slight gains" in party preference polls in the past year, with three more states now in the GOP's column than in 2012.

It "reflects a gradual shrinking of the Democrats' dominance since 2008, the year Barack Obama first won the presidency," Gallup said.

A few more dismal reports like last week, showing the economy is slowing to a crawl and the jobless rate is rising again, and the voters are going to demote Nevada's Harry Reid to Senate minority leader.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.