President Obama's new embrace of bipartisanship may be an effort to help end the crash in support for his administration among independent voters.
“Independents are clearly a group that propelled him to the White House, but he has had a bad couple of months with the failed health care program and things in Washington that have not changed along the lines that he promised,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.
A poll out this week from Miringoff's team gives Obama a 44 percent job approval rating among registered voters, but shows that only 29 percent of independent voters now approve of the president's performance.
“There's a pronounced sense of disapproval. Fifty-two percent of independents voted for him largely on the idea that he was bringing change and all we're getting is more of the same. To get independents back he's going to have to deliver the change he promised,” said Rob Autry, a partner at Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.
Marist polls throughout the past year have showed Obama's ratings with independent voters steadily slipping, from 53 percent at the beginning of April, to 51 percent in June, 47 percent in August and 41 percent in December.
Job performance was not the only grief that independents had with the president. Fifty-three percent of independents said that Obama had fallen short of their expectations and 45 percent said that he was changing the country for the worst. Fifty-two percent said that they had an unfavorable view of the president.
“Obama's got to deliver. The typical independent wants action. They want to see their personal life improved. I think the main thing is that you deliver economic improvement, you pass health care reform, and things stabilize in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.
Miringoff said part of Obama's problem has been the rise of the anti-Washington attitude among voters.
“Obama knows more than anybody what heightened energy can do on a campaign and the Tea Party movement has a lot of that energy.”
It's an attitude that Republicans credit for their reconnection with independent voters after poor showings with unaffiliated voters in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
“I don't think there's a lot they can do,” Autry said. “Democrats are in a world of hurt right now.”