President Obama is working hard to clarify how sequester spending cuts will hit Americans. But many don't understand what's happening and ultimately will look to Obama for solutions.
Even Republicans concede that, for now, the president’s bully pulpit strategy on the “sequester” is working. He has been doing local media interviews, leaning on the governors, and holding campaign-style events around the country – including Tuesday’s visit to Newport News, Va. – to highlight cuts in defense spending. And his team is flooding the zone with data aimed at sowing concern about how the cuts would affect real people. On Sunday night, the White House released numbers on the sequester’s impact, state-by-state.
But the public isn’t paying much attention. Despite intensive media coverage, only 27 percent of Americans say they have heard a lot about the sequester, according to a poll released last week by the Pew Research Center and USA Today. In addition, not surprisingly, most Americans don’t understand the sequester. When asked what it is, only 36 percent of Americans selected the right answer, a recent poll by The Hill newspaper found.
So in fact, Mr. Obama bears some risk – especially as time goes on.
“I think he wins short term, but danger mounts over time,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “There’s only one president, and he will be the focus of people’s attention if a satisfactory resolution is not eventually reached.”