Barack Obama is a strange politician. He has never really been a popular president, yet when he places himself in sharp conflict with Republicans, his hate machine has been able to push them lower than himself and temporarily raise his own popularity. In 2012, he defied gravity, winning re-election despite having no significant accomplishments to his name, and with an economic record that would have spelled doom for any former incumbent.
So it’s a little hard to know how to take Obama’s current slide in the polls. First, though, let’s just enjoy it. In the Gallup poll, Obama has actually risen a bit–God only knows why–but he still stands at an anemic 43%/50%. In general, he has been doing better of late in the Rasmussen survey than in most other polls, I think because Rasmussen polls likely voters at all times, and therefore, based on recent turnout trends, he gives lots of weight to minority voters. But currently, Obama is plummeting there too, and Rasmussen currently has Obama under water at 44%/55%.
A new Pew poll came out today; its findings are grim for Obama and the Democrats. In overall approval/disapproval he stands at 41%/53%, but some of the other numbers are even worse:
Obama must thank his lucky stars every day that after all these years, our military and intelligence professionals were able to kill Osama bin Laden. Other than that, the landscape is bleak. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of Obama’s performance on health care; a mind-blowing 65% disapprove of his performance on the economy–tell me one more time, how did he get re-elected?–56% disapprove on foreign policy. And how about this one: some Republicans are still trying to collaborate with the Democrats on importing tens of millions of new Democratic voters–or, rather, on “comprehensive immigration reform.” But why? Sixty percent disapprove of Obama on immigration, too.
This Pew graphic is interesting. It suggests that Obama’s second term is shaping up much like George W. Bush’s:
One difference between Obama and Bush is that Obama’s decline is entirely self-inflicted. (Some would say, entirely deserved.) Bush’s decline during the first year of his second term was due largely to media hysteria over Hurricane Katrina, which struck in August 2005. Bush wasn’t responsible for Katrina, but Obama is responsible for Obamacare, which is driving voters’ current revulsion toward him. Moreover, while Bush never recovered from the long slog in Iraq and the media-created Katrina hype, he did make a significant comeback as a result of the success of the surge in Iraq. Is a similar comeback in store for Obama? It doesn’t seem likely. The economy continues to go nowhere, and bin Laden–like Franco–is still dead. Next year the cancellations of employer-sponsored group policies will begin in earnest, which should make the current controversy over Obamacare look like a garden party. The only way Obama can survive the tsunami that will sweep over Washington when tens of millions of Americans lose their employer-sponsored insurance coverage is if Republicans are dumb enough to take the Democrats off the hook by agreeing to postpone the implementation of the employer mandate–again! Even Republicans can’t possibly be that stupid.
Where the rubber hits the road, of course, is the November 2014 election. Obama has survived quite well without being a popular president. His heightened unpopularity will be important, in the end, only if it helps Republicans to increase their margin in the House and capture the Senate next year.