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The trouble with trying to make Rick Santelli into the new populist icon is that it's all bullshit. Politico's headline reads: Obama's Challenge: A nation of Santellis.

When CNBC’s Rick Santelli argued last week that President Barack Obama’s mortgage bailout plan would force hard-working Americans to pay for their neighbors’ mistakes, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed him as a know-nothing derivatives trader out of touch with Main Street.

But if the White House simply dismisses Santelli’s point, it may do so at its peril: A Rasmussen poll released Monday found that 55 percent of those surveyed thought federal mortgage subsidies to those most at risk of losing their homes would be “rewarding bad behavior.”

But except for Rasmussen, which has become the "go to" poll for lonely Republicans, public opinion is squarely on Obama's side.

In fact, ABC/WaPo says:

While Obama has encountered near unanimous GOP opposition to his stimulus plan in Congress and widespread criticism for a housing bailout plan some critics say rewards people who have been fiscally irresponsible, 64 percent of those polled back the economic recovery package and the same percentage backs the mortgage proposal.

Overall, 60 percent of poll respondents approve of how he is dealing with the economy.

CNN adds this interesting and important tidbit:
You know times are tough when Republicans have more confidence in a Democratic president than they do in bankers or Wall Street investors, but that's what the poll is showing now," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Among Republicans, 37 percent say they are confident in Obama's ability to make the right economic decisions, but only 31 percent of Republicans feel that way about Wall Street."

"Labor union leaders don't fare badly either," said Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst. "Nearly half the public has confidence in them. But Wall Street investors? Bankers and financial executives? Auto company executives? No more than 30 percent have confidence in them.

"Right now, Americans trust political leaders more than business leaders. That's new and it has consequences."

How tough is tough? There's always the NY Times to spell it out:
With a job approval rating of 63 percent, Mr. Obama is in a strong position to sell his economic policies. Yet the poll also captured skepticism about how effective his plans will prove to be in addressing the deep recession, as well as a strain of populism that could test his ability to retain public support for efforts to prop up key sectors of the economy...

A majority of people surveyed in both parties said Mr. Obama was striving to work in a bipartisan way, but most Americans faulted Republicans for their response to the president, saying the party had objected to the $787 billion economic stimulus plan for political reasons. Most Americans said Mr. Obama should pursue the priorities he campaigned on, the poll found, rather than seek middle ground with Republicans.

Ouch. Now, the public isn't in a giving mood when it comes to business, who they think play a rigged game with a stacked deck. NY Times:
A majority of poll respondents said bankers, not all Americans, would benefit from rescuing the nation’s financial institutions. An even wider majority said the struggling automotive companies should not receive further taxpayer money to help them survive. And while there is a strong belief that government should help homeowners avoid foreclosure, people are evenly divided over whether the plan announced last week is fair.
So, my media friends, try as you might, you can't fool the public. This isn't Obama's problem, it's a problem for Republicans and for Wall Street. The public doesn't trust either one, so let's start telling it like it is. There's more work to be done on the program for homeowners, but let's not pretend the Rick Santellis of the world are "average Joe Populist", or that commodity traders represent public opinon. If anything, they're on the wrong side of the divide, along with Congressional Republicans.
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Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Feb 24, 2009 at 07:40 AM PST.

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