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Legislative Success and Political Failure: The Public's Reaction to Barack Obama's Early Presidency


Gary C. Jacobson is distinguished professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. He specializes in the study of U.S. elections, parties, Congress, and public opinion. His most recent book is A Divider, Not a Uniter: George W. Bush and the American People.


During his first two years in office, fulfilling prominent campaign promises, Barack Obama pushed through legislation attacking the recession and its causes, initiated sweeping reforms in the health care system, and shifted U.S. forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. His reward was to see his Democratic Party suffer a crushing defeat in the 2010 elections. I examine the contours of opinion regarding Obama before he was elected and as they subsequently evolved during his early presidency in order to understand where, how, and why the president's legislative and policy successes turned into political failures.