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Financial reform bill another win for Obama, but will the public care?

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“For most people not clued into politics, there’s only one issue: the economy,” says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “Basically, people are judging Obama by the shape of the economy, which is still very bad.”

Obama sold his biggest legislative initiatives as fixes for the economy, and by reelection time in 2012, voters may recognize them as accomplishments, because the economy should be doing better, Mr. Sabato says. “But right now,” he says, “all they know is the economy’s still bad, so what good to them is the stimulus, financial reform, even health care?”

Furthermore, the content of the 2,300-page financial reform is confusing to many people. This means Obama and the Democrats have their work cut out in explaining and selling it to the public – just as they have tried to do with health-care reform. Republicans will work just as hard to spin financial reform as a disaster. The bill, which Obama is to sign next week, creates a body within the Federal Reserve aimed at protecting consumers, oversight of the derivatives market, and a way for the government to take over and dismantle failing financial firms.

The public relations battle started moments after passage. Thursday afternoon, fresh from an economic speech in Michigan, Obama touted financial reform from the south driveway of the White House – beginning with what the reform means for average Americans. Included are protections to consumers on mortgages, credit cards, and student loans.

“All told, this reform puts in place the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” Obama said. “And it creates a new consumer watchdog to enforce those protections.”

Speaking of “Wall Street’s mistakes,” Obama also promised that there will be “no more taxpayer-funded bailouts, period."

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