When I started doing focus group work for DHS before it WAS DHS, I did it for the free travel. As responsibilities back home increase, time away becomes more and more difficult---but my role here has gotten to a point that I actually look more forward to the meetings and what we accomplish more than anything else. This was very productive.
The reason I was brought to DC had nothing to do whatsoever with an assessment of public perception of the current executive branch and solely represents a rather biased observation through red tinted glasses.
Last time I was in DC was before the last election. There was an Obama mania going on. Ongoing rallies, posters, buzz in the bars (people here are far more politically interested than on the west coast)---there was a real tide of 'Hope and Change'. I'd try to pin people down to specifics but there weren't any, and everyone had their own ideas of what 'Hope and Change' actually meant----the campaign was genius in its vagueness; no one dug deep into what the message was or even who the candidate was.
This trip was very, very different.
So, coming direct from the belly of the beast, Obama's got his work cut out for him this time around. People will demand substance, and hopefully will actually scrutinize numbers and claims. Incumbancy IS a huge boost with the bully pulpit and all, but people aren't fainting and swooning in his mere presence anymore