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Republican: “I Can’t Help Liking Obama”

Good article over at CNN this morning.  Former GOP staffer and lobbyist John Feehery says that even though he has philosophical differences with Obama’s politics, he can’t help but be drawn to Obama the person.  Here’s an excerpt:

CNN) — As I watched President Obama conduct a town hall meeting in Strasbourg, France, the other day, a chilling realization crossed my mind: I like the guy.

This might be a surprise coming from a partisan Republican who also does some work as a lobbyist. (Obama seems to dislike my profession with special intensity.)

But it shouldn’t be. There is much to like about him. He has a winning smile. He is unself-consciously hip. He is smart. He has self-confidence without being overly smug. He has married well and has two “perfect” daughters (his words, not mine).

Obama also has an inspiring life story, and his election to the highest office in the world represents the best possibilities of the American dream.


Philosophically, I don’t agree with the president. He is a collectivist, where I believe more in individual responsibility. He is a Keynesian, where I am a supply-sider. He is pro-choice. I am pro-life.

But I still like him. And I think many of my fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill are stuck in the same trap. They like the man, but don’t like the policies. They hope, for the sake of the country, that he is successful, but have their real doubts that his policies will work. And because they are the loyal opposition, they are stuck, in this 24-hour cable news and talk radio culture, saying things about him that make them seem shrill and out of touch. What makes it worse is that, according to the polls, Americans have much more faith in Obama and the Democrats now than they do in the GOP.

Obama’s presidency is interesting in that his personal image seems to exist separately from his policies.  George W. Bush was inseparable from his policies, as was Clinton.

As Feehery mentions, this leaves the GOP in a bit of a dilemma.  While Obama’s policies are still fairly popular, his personal approval ratings are off the chart.  (Last month, Obama had a 67% approval rating while only 54% though the country was heading in the right direction, according to this poll.)

So while hacks like Sean Hannity continue to attack the President and cast every move he makes in the worst possible light, they’re attacking a President that enjoys more popularity than he should based solely on politics.  This can only backfire on Republicans.

As Feehery notes, the GOP needs to find a way to oppose Obama’s policies without seeming to attack the man.  Given the hyper-sensitivity of our political arena, this isn’t easy to do.  (Hint: Saying you want the President to fail is not the right approach.)  But if they can’t figure something out, the Republicans are going to be branded obstructionists.  If that happens, and especially if the economy starts to recover in the next 12 months, the GOP is going to suffer further losses in 2010.

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