In a vain attempt to justify President Obama's claim that "America is back," on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd excitedly announced to viewers: "In our new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, improvement in three key categories seems to indicate the statistical green shoots about the economy is now actually penetrating the American psyche."
So what stunning reversal of public sentiment did the new poll reveal? Here it is: "The big number, of course, is whether the country is headed in the right direction. In December, it was 22%. Now it shot up seven [eight] points to 30%. That's a one-year high." The graphic on screen showed that 61% of Americans still believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction.
Todd further touted approval of Obama's handling of the economy now standing at 45%, with 50% disapproval, and those believing the economy would improve in the next year being at 37%, having "shot up" from 30%. He made sure to emphasize those number were also "one-year highs."
Introducing the supposedly "surprising" numbers, anchor Brian Williams declared they "couldn't come at a more critical time." Todd concluded the segment with some wishful thinking disguised as analysis: "Brian, as you know, if this shift in public opinion on the economy continues and it's coupled with actual improvement, that's the presidential game-changer that both the Republicans have to deal with."
In contrast to Todd's overly optimistic appraisal, on Thursday's Today, co-host Matt Lauer put this question to Tom Brokaw: "You know, during the State of the Union address, the president said that, 'Anyone who tells you that America is in decline doesn't know what they're talking about'....I've seen numbers as high as 64%, Tom, saying, 'No, we're on the wrong track.' Does the president need to be more realistic with that subject?"
In response, Brokaw grasped for anything positive: "Well, I think what he's talking about are the fundamentals. It is still, the underlying economy is stronger than any other in the world....We have rule of law. We've got a great education system, even though it's troubled."
Apparently the bar for success has gotten so low that simply not abandoning "the rule of law" is now seen as an accomplishment.
Here is a full transcript of the January 25 report:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: But there is more, to our political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd we go. He's in our Washington bureau tonight. Chuck, you have new polling numbers and it couldn't come at a more critical time.
CHUCK TODD: And they were quite surprising, which is why we're bringing them to you a little bit earlier than normal. For the last six months, government and Wall Street data has indicated that the economy is improving. Drop in unemployment rate, of course, is the most publically noticeable figure. But during those same six months, the public has not indicated they've been feeling the improvement, at least when asked by folks like us in the polls.
That is until now. In our new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, improvement in three key categories seems to indicate the statistical green shoots about the economy is now actually penetrating the American psyche. The big number, of course, is whether the country is headed in the right direction. In December, it was 22%. Now it shot up seven points to 30% [61% wrong track]. That's a one-year high. When it comes to President Obama's handling of the economy, last month it was under 40%, a dreadful number. Today, 45% [50% disapprove]. Again, a one-year high. And what about the idea of what the economy's going to do in the next 12 months? A month ago, 30% thought it would get better. Now it shot up to 37%. Again, Brian, a one-year high.
Brian, as you know, if this shift in public opinion on the economy continues and it's coupled with actual improvement, that's the presidential game-changer that both the Republicans have to deal with.
WILLIAMS: Alright, interesting new numbers tonight. Chuck Todd, thank you for that.
- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.