By David Hawkings
Posted at 6:13 p.m. on July 24

President Barack Obama’s effort to pivot Washington’s attention back onto the economy — and claim the public opinion upper hand before his budget battle with Congress is rejoined this fall — had all the hallmarks of a recent State of the Union address.

The speech at Knox College in Illinois was exhaustively advanced, extensively rehearsed, carefully leaked and filled more with aspirational notions than with legislative specifics. It balanced olive branch passages promising an eagerness to work with congressional Republicans with blunt-force admonishments about the GOP’s penchant for spurning him at every turn.

And, in true late January fashion, the soaring rhetoric that Obama hoped would redefine his summer and re-energize his fall was met with such predictable partisanship that it will do absolutely nothing to soak up any of the poisonous pool that he and his congressional antagonists are stuck in.

Fifteen months before the midterm elections, Wednesday could end up being remembered as the day it became undeniably clear that Washington’s leaders are still committed to keeping the key to their gridlock hidden — at least until the voters take their next turn at shuffling the power dynamic.

The timing could not be more curious, given that Obama was flying to rural northwestern Illinois and top Republicans were polishing their derisive responses to what he hadn’t said yet, just as NBC News and the Wall Street Journal were delivering the details of their latest poll, which could have been titled: “It didn’t look like the capital’s standing could slip lower, but it has.”

The most dire numbers for the institution of Congress: 83 percent of adults are thumbs-down on the job it’s doing, a disapproval rating never exceeded in this survey. And 57 percent of registered voters said they would vote to replace every single person in the House and Senate if they were given that option, another all-time high.

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