POLITICS

Mike Pence Attacks Obama Administration By Citing Things It Polled Well On

Americans gave the last president positive marks for handling the swine flu — and, in retrospect, for the Affordable Care Act.

Asked about the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus during Wednesday night’s debate, Vice President Mike Pence reached for a historical comparison.

“We actually do know what failure looks like in a pandemic,” Pence said, citing the Obama administration ― and then-vice president Joe Biden’s ― response to the 2009 swine flu.

“Sixty million Americans contracted the swine flu,” Pence said. “[Biden’s] own chief of staff Ron Klain would say last year that it was pure luck, that they did ‘everything possible wrong.’ And we learned from that.” (Klain later told Politico his comments referred to the White House’s struggle to produce an adequate supply of vaccines to meet public demand.)

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on Oct. 7, 2
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

At the time, however, the Obama administration saw broadly positive marks for its response to the swine flu. In an October 2009 CNN/ORC poll, a 57% majority of Americans approved of how President Barack Obama handled the government response to the swine flu, with 40% disapproving.

Polling on President Barack Obama's handling of the 2009 swine flu.
Polling on President Barack Obama's handling of the 2009 swine flu.

And in a Fox News poll taken later that year, 55% of voters said the blame for the swine flu vaccine shortage fell mostly on the companies that made the vaccine, with just 13% primarily blaming the White House.

Polling on Obama's handling of the 2009 swine flu.
Polling on Obama's handling of the 2009 swine flu.

The Trump administration also saw initially positive ratings for its handling of the coronavirus ― in March 2020 HuffPost/YouGov polling, Americans’ approval for the government response reached as high as 57%, while Trump’s approval rating on the issue reached the 50% mark. But as the pandemic continued on, those numbers slid underwater.

In a HuffPost/YouGov poll released this week, just 39% of voters approve of Trump’s handling of coronavirus issues, and only 35% approve of the federal government response.

Later in the debate, Pence called Obamacare a “disaster.” Unlike the Obama administration’s response to swine flu, the Affordable Care Act was often genuinely unpopular in its early years ― in 2014, 53% disapproved, according to Kaiser Family Foundation polling.

In the years since, however, the law has grown increasingly popular. In KFF’s latest polling, conducted last month, 49% of Americans held a favorable view of the ACA, compared to the 42% who viewed it negatively.

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