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On Economy, White House Message Not Sticking

President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign fundraiser for Missouri Senate hopeful Robin Carnahan, July 8, 2010, in Kansas City, Mo. AP

The new CBS News Poll has some sobering numbers for the White House on the issue that matters most in the fall elections - the economy.

Now, 40 percent of Americans polled approve of President Obama's handling of the economy; 54 percent disapprove. That's down from 45 percent approval last month.

Seventy-one percent of those polled say that their local job market is bad and 70 percent say it's going to stay the same or get worse. Only 28 percent of respondents think the job market will improve.

The White House has consistently said that the economic mess was inherited, that the Recovery Act/stimulus package has worked, and that it's going to take time for the country to get back on track. Republicans and some business allies have countered that the health care law and other legislative priorities, like the proposed energy legislation, have cost the business community and make job creation difficult.

The poll numbers show that the White House's message of success, not so much in curing the economy, but success in doing what's right, doesn't seem to be sticking.

Last week at fundraiser in Missouri, the president acknowledged the difficulty he's had in convincing Americans that his administration has the right prescription to fix the economy. "You wouldn't know it from listening to folks, but we cut taxes for working families and for small business owners all across American to help them weather the storm," he said.

With a few months to go to November's midterm elections, the White House has big hill to climb to turn the economic numbers around. So they've begun to change the message.

As White House officials acknowledged this weekend, there is a real chance that Republicans can win the 40 congressional races to take control of the House of Representatives. For the administration, if what they have done to spur the economic recovery isn't getting credit for having worked, the best they can hope for is to convince voters that the GOP won't make things any better.

Here's the president himself making that point in a fundraiser last week in Nevada: "Basically, the other party, their whole argument is based on the notion, well, it hasn't moved fast enough. Well, I agree. I'd like to see us get out of this hole sooner, but you have to understand we are heading in the right direction. And what the other side is offering is basically to go back to the same ideas that got us into this mess in the first place. That's all they're doing."

Robert Hendin is a CBS News White House producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.

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