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Obama's agenda gets bogged down in oil

With the midterm elections nearing, the president by now had planned to be focusing on jobs and the economy. But the gulf oil spills has sidetracked him — and potentially Democrats' election hopes.

June 02, 2010|By Peter Nicholas, Tribune Washington Bureau

Polls suggest Obama has yet to convince the public that he is on top of the situation. Inside the administration, some contend that the White House has put out a message that has left the public confused: that BP's role is to plug the leak, but the president is ultimately accountable.

With Obama preoccupied, Democratic analysts are urging candidates to take matters into their own hands and talk about jobs at every turn.

Celinda Lake, a Democratic strategist, said that in this precarious economy, "if you're not talking about jobs, it's very hard to convince the voters that you're, one, in touch with their lives and, two, getting anything done that matters to them."

Timing has bedeviled Obama since the inauguration. Healthcare negotiations dragged out for a full year, forcing other issues to the side. He was supposed to make his "hard pivot" to jobs in January. Then February. It still hasn't happened.

With oil flooding the gulf, and Israel on the defensive over its raid Monday that turned deadly aboard ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, it may not happen this year.

"His failure to focus on jobs last year could come back and bite him," Newhouse said. "Because you know what? Circumstances dictate now that he has to be dealing with other issues. And, overwhelmingly, jobs are still the No. 1 issue facing the country."

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