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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

As midterms near, Obama on shaky ground



The weekend in Florida was conceived to soothe one distraction — the gulf oil disaster — but only intensified another.

"I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," President Obama told reporters after landing in Panama City on Aug. 14, backtracking from what he said the night before about the right of proponents of an Islamic center to build near ground zero.

The messy foray into a controversy he previously avoided underscores the problem Obama has faced since taking office 20 months ago. The focus he displayed on the campaign trail and the promises he made are colliding with the reality of governing.

Engulfed by the biggest economic downturn in a generation, Obama, 49, has been challenged by forces both out of his control (the oil) and within (the mosque). He has had to straddle rival factions in his own party, and endure lockstep opposition of Republicans. Despite a remarkable series of legislative victories, his approval rating has fallen under persistent unemployment.

All of which set up grim midterm elections for his party in November. Democrats face severe losses in the House, perhaps a GOP takeover, and the Senate majority could be in jeopardy as well. (story here)

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:27am]


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