RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
For some analysis, let's go to NPR's Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Monday mornings. Good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Renee. Welcome back.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much. Glad to back.
President Obama has been going around the country, as we've just heard, revving up crowds, saying pass this bill. But as David just pointed out, there is some resistance to the bill within the president's own Democratic Party. How serious is the opposition among Democrats?
ROBERTS: Well, it was serious enough that the situation played out last week in the Senate, that could be very damaging for the president's program, from here on out. The Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, in an effort to embarrass Democrats brought up the jobs bill - the original jobs bill - as an amendment to another piece of legislation.
But rather than have an embarrassing vote on that, the majority leader, Harry Reid, invoked what's been called the nuclear option, which is basically he used parliamentary tactics to change the rules of the Senate by a simple majority instead of that 60-super majority vote that's usually needed to do anything in the Senate.
It's a very dangerous precedent, particularly for the Democrats, as they could easily find themselves in the minority after next year's election. And it's, you know, it's something that will be very contentious inside the Senate, to do this kind of rules change in a heavy-handed fashion. And it really just shows that the problem – how big the problem is, that the president has in getting his programs through the one House of Congress that is Democratically controlled.
And it raises the question of why he would send up a bill that the Democrats don't support without having, you know, checked it out with them ahead of time.
MONTAGNE: Well, in some ways, though, that jobs bill could be seen as one of the least of the president's problems. Both he and the vice president have given interviews in recent days, and they made it clear that they think they are the underdogs in the next election.
ROBERTS: Well, of course, they are. So they are sort of stating the truth. But in the last ABC poll, 40 percent said they strongly disapproved of the job that the president's doing, and that's understandable, given, you know, the economic situation. But the president gave an interview saying people are not better off than they were four years ago. Now, he was nuanced in that answer, but the soundbite is there to be used against him in the coming campaign.
But I think more important, is his, sort of, general gloominess which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I mean, we saw this in 1980 where everybody was kind of feeling down about the economy and down about the country and President Carter seemed to be down about everything. And Ronald Reagan came in and said, you know, wake up, it's a great country, and you know, it's full of optimism and full of a sense of can-do.
And I think that that spirit is something that Americans respond to and I think that that's what, you know, what the Republican's big hope is in this election is to bring that spirit about.
MONTAGNE: Well, do you see a Ronald Reagan personality in this year's Republican line up?
ROBERTS: Well, no. At the moment the flavor of the week is Herman Cain, but he doesn't really have a real campaign going.
MONTAGNE: Although he's pretty optimistic.
ROBERTS: He's very optimistic.
MONTAGNE: He is an optimist.
ROBERTS: And he does, he totally gets that aspect of the American response to politicians. But what he doesn't have is any money or any staff. Look, the Republican contest has been, and remains, Romney versus non-Romney, and the non-Romney person keeps changing. Rick Perry's pastor aroused some controversy this weekend, the pastor who introduced him at the Values Voter Summit, saying that Mormons aren't Christians, that they're a cult.
Then Rick Perry and all the other candidates sort of walked back from that one and Perry specifically said, I don't think they're a cult. But that is – that's going to be an issue in this campaign. But that big question of optimism is one that the Republicans can really capitalize on.
MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR's Cokie Roberts.
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