Political setbacks cloud president Obama's visit

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Old 28-Oct-2010
Political setbacks cloud president Obama's visit

Washington October 28:

When President Barack Obama lands in Mumbai a week from now, don't be surprised if he arrives with a scowl on his face instead of a smile.

A grim visage will be in keeping with the drubbing he is expected to receive in the US mid-term election that will precede what some have called a "getaway" trip to India and three other Asian stops.

The news on the home front is not good. His own poll numbers are dismal and his presidency is in danger of becoming weakened. He is now at the lowest job approval rating of his presidency with two-thirds of Americans (67%) having a negative opinion of the job he is doing while just over one-third (37%) have a positive opinion, according to a Harris poll conducted last week.

Not surprisingly, nine in ten Republicans (90%) and Conservatives (89%) give him a negative rating, but the ambush may be coming from his own side of the fence: one-third of Democrats (34%) and Liberals (33%) also give him negative ratings, as do seven in ten Independents (70%) and six in ten Moderates (60%). All this does not augur well for Democrats who currently hold a comfortable majority in both wings of the legislature the House of Representatives and the Senate not to speak of the many governorships and state legislatures that are at stake.

Political setbacks for Obama won't be good for New Delhi either in the immediate context, according to those tracking the run-up to the visit: he will arrive in India lacerated by voters for his handling of the economy will consequently ratchet up pressure on his hosts on a range of economic issues aimed at furthering American interests. That could include pressing New Delhi to open up its retail sector more and crank up imports aimed at generating jobs in America to ignoring India's gripe about US protectionist measures.

Talking up strategic confluence with New Delhi will mask growing differences in trade and commerce that may stifle India's own buoyant economy. In that sense, the timing of the visit could not have been worse, but then, no one foresaw the Democratic Party in doldrums when the visit was first scheduled last year. Obama could still salvage the situation. In the past fortnight, he has hurtled from state to state to energize the Democratic base. There are some indications that his efforts are bearing fruit.

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