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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Obama?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

One of the songs from the 1959 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical "The Sound of Music" is, "How do you Solve a Problem like Maria?"

Republicans are asking themselves the same question about President Obama. According to RealClearPolitics.com, the new President's approval ratings average 73% ranging from a high of 79% (Pew and ABC news/Washington Post) to a low of 60% (CBS News/New York Times).

Note, though, that all of those polls were taken before last Tuesday's inauguration.

Republicans in the House and Senate have to find a voice without getting in between a 70+ percent President and the American people.

What … ever … shall … they … do?

First of all, don't panic. Just below the chart showing Obama at his high levels is a chart showing the approval rating of the U.S. Congress. Average? 21% approval. Nearly the same percentage of Americans disapprove of the way the Congress is operating as approve of the way the new Administration is starting.

So, the secret is to leave Barack Obama alone for the time being. He'll make his own mistakes. Snapping at a reporter in the briefing room the other day was not a good way to start.

The relatives of people killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11 telling the press they are furious at the prospect of terrorists being set free upon the closing of Guantanamo will wear away some of the glow.

If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ever had a glow it has long since been reduced to a faint spark.

Republicans in the House cannot whine about not getting a fair chance to participate in the design of legislation. The current split is 256 Democrats and 178 Republicans (with one vacancy).

When you are 78 seats in the hole you are not going to win many battles in Committee or on the Floor. There are no filibusters in the House, whatever bill Pelosi wants to bring to the floor for a vote is coming to the floor for a vote.

Republicans in the House have to pick their spots. The current campaign to make the case that the focus of any stimulus package should be putting money directly into the hands of Americans so they can go back to being consumers - is a good example.

It can take a "shovel-ready project" like a bridge something on the order of a year from the time the money is approved to the time the first shovel is actually needed.

It will take a mom with an extra $100 in her checking account about 20 minutes to drive to Target and start buying clothes for her kids.

That's a message almost everyone who does not work in Manhattan (and most who do) will understand.

On the Senate side, things are a little different. Republicans currently have 41 seats. If all Republicans stick together they can pretty much stall anything Harry Reid wants to bring to the floor.

The challenge for Senate Republicans is not to just stop a stimulus package - a 73% President will go on TV and blame the GOP for extending and deepening the recession. The job is to have a few non-negotiable items they want in the package and hold the 21% Senate up until they get it.

Whatever those few legislative initiatives are, they have to be easy to understand by people who don't live and/or work inside the Beltway and the individual Senators' offices have to be able to communicate to the folks in their states why they are important.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky) should pick a fight early and make certain that it is an issue which will allow Republican Whip John Kyl (Az) to hold the Republican Conference together so that Harry Reid can't get to the 60 votes he needs to break a filibuster.

The final chart on the RealClearPolitics.com page is "Direction of the Country." Only about 22 percent of Americans think the U.S. is on the right track.

A 21 percent Democrat-controlled Congress leading a 71 percent wrong-track country gives Republicans have a big, bright target to help Americans separate the Obama White House from the Pelosi/Reed Capitol.

That's how you solve a problem like Obama.

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