Danny Rogers: Obama's spin doctors face an uphill battle

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I write to you from California, where the political temperature matches that on the coast. Last week Barack Obama turned 50. When asked about his ideal present, he responded: "What I really want right now is to get a debt ceiling for my birthday. Maybe I'll have a good hamburger as well."

He got both, but the former has only deepened his reputational challenges on this side of the Atlantic. Last week's 11th-hour Congressional agreement to raise America's debt-ceiling has weakened confidence, both in the US economy and in Obama's leadership prowess.

Throughout the negotiations with rival Republicans, Obama's spin doctors – or aides as they're branded here – have sought to portray their charge as the "adult in the room", emphasising his willingness to compromise and head off economic catastrophe. Unfortunately the press is full of rumours that he was "sidelined" as negotiations shifted to Capitol Hill and the Democrat-led Senate.

Obama is a born diplomat, but one senses that Americans prefer a fierce and dogmatic leader, regardless of their flaws. The only time Obama's approval ratings have risen recently was after he ordered the raid that killed Bin Laden.

It is so different from those heady days of 2008 when he was wowing crowds with his "Yes we can" message. Ask Americans what they think of their leader and they talk about the Medicare funding crisis and the flat economy.

Team Obama is focused on next year's election and is only too aware that the Republicans, who will outspend the Democrats by 2:1, have regained their electoral will. The only good news for Obama is that the Republicans' poll ratings are even worse than his own.

Danny Rogers is editor of PR Week