Many conservatives predictably fear -- and some downright oppose -- any expansion of government. But late last year many moderates and independents who were already frightened about the economy began to fret that Washington was taking irreversible actions that would drive mountainous deficits higher. They worried that government was taking on far more than it could competently handle and far more than the country could afford. Against this backdrop, Obama's agenda fanned fears that government was expanding too far, too fast. Before long, his strategy of letting Congress take the lead in formulating legislative proposals and thus prodding lawmakers to take ownership in their outcome caused his poll numbers on "strength" and "leadership" to plummet.
It's not immediately clear that all voters will respond negatively to expanded government intervention in a time of acute economic distress, to put it mildly. But this part about strength and leadership has the ring of truth to me. And I suspect it's a very big part of his declining support among independents. And not just them.