John notes below that Obama’s approve-disapprove gap in the Rasmussen index is slumping to its worst point ever. I’ve had the feeling for a while now that Obama is one banana-peel slip away from Jimmy Carter territory, pace Glenn Reynolds’ theme that a repeat of Carter is the best case scenario for Obama.TM After all, at least Carter figured out monetary policy (late in the game, but still), started deregulating basic industries, postponed a number of costly environmental regulations, increased defense spending, and a Democratic Congress cut the capital gains tax (in the face of Carter’s threatened veto—that much he has in common with Obama).
The chart below compares the Carter and Obama approval ratings in the weekly Gallup poll from comparable periods of their second and third years in office. Carter of course got a huge bump in approval at the beginning of the Iranian hostage crisis at the end of 1979, but you can see the slide in his approval rating to below 30 percent in the spring of 1979 as gas prices and gas lines accelerated along with runaway inflation. Obama’s red line shows the small bump in May at the time of the Bin Laden mission, but it didn’t last long, and through the debt limit crisis he’s been slowly losing ground. Like Carter, who hectored us on our “crisis of confidence” at the peak of his leadership crisis, Obama doesn’t know what to do, as Jay Cost argues well over at the Weekly Standard. So he may yet head into Jimmy territory. The big question is, with “Progressives” increasingly dismayed with Obama, who will play the Ted Kennedy role and rise to the challenge? Obama did a clever thing putting the obvious challenger (Hillary) in his cabinet. Maybe Russ Feingold will give it a go, though Wisconsin Democrats don’t look so mighty these days.
Meanwhile, a thought for the day, from the Democratic Party’s 1924 nominee John W. Davis, who, after losing to Calvin Coolidge but feeling that one of his problems was the strain of demagogic populism in the Democratic Party, said this: “When will we get done with the fool idea that the way to make a party grow is to scare away everybody who has an extra dollar in his pocket? God forbid that the Democratic Party should become a mere gathering of the unsuccessful!”
I’d say they’ve solved that problem!
UPDATE: Wait! I know who can do it! Jimmy Carter can do it! He’s still eligible for a second term. Things are lining up just right for him. I just caught up with this Ron Brownstein piece in the National Journal (“Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned”) from a couple days ago, which features this little nugget:
Both the turmoil in the financial markets and a procession of dismal new poll results point toward the same unmistakable conclusion: All of the leading figures and institutions in Washington are facing a collapse in public confidence probably unmatched since late in Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
Plus this: “’I would say he is only about 5 degrees from the Carter line where people stop listening to you,’ one senior party fundraiser frets.”