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Obama: Faltering or Flying High?

President Obama holds another primetime press conference this evening, with his approval rating holding steady or even increasing in the latest polls. The AIG mess has taken its toll — but the public seems to be blaming Congress, Wall Street or Tim Geithner and not the president.

So why the feeling that his presidency is in disarray?

Howard Kurtz writes in the Washington Post, “Obama’s coolness in front of the cameras — he’s done everything but show up in a leather jacket and shades — is helping him stay connected to the public (although at this pace he runs the risk of overexposure). And yet there’s a growing sense that his young administration is in trouble. Why is that?

“One reason, naturally, is that the economy remains in tatters. Another is the sense that Obama hasn’t quite gotten hold of the job. And then there’s the fast-forward news culture that started giving him poor-to-failing grades on Day 50. So the narrative has moved from “wow, an African American president!” to “does this guy know what he’s doing?”

Case in point: The Teleprompter story.

As his predecessors have done, Obama has sought to bypass the Washington filter by talking directly to the American people — to use a well-worn cliche. As the Politico points out today, his strategy is different in its extreme: Unconventional appearances on Leno and ESPN, town-hall meetings in California and Ohio, an interview with liberal talk radio and a steady stream of messaging coming in the form of YouTube videos. A top aide tells Politico that the strategy is, “Flood the zone.”

The overexposure would seem to be a risk, but that comes when a politician (or celebrity, for that matter) appears hopelessly to the cameras, and also has nothing new to say or say something stupid (Special Olympics jokes would do the trick, but Obama’s quick apology appears to have nipped it in the bud). Barring that, at a time of economic crisis and a cascading number of global challenges, there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about when it comes to the public just getting sick and tired of you.

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