Democrats Should Be Afraid. Very Afraid.

Two polls, both by CNN, are getting a lot of attention, and rightly so. Let’s start with the one on President Obama, released this morning. This survey has Obama’s approval under water at 45%/52%. That isn’t a surprise, since Obama hasn’t topped 50% in the CNN poll in two years. Currently, Obama ranks below all former presidents; George W. Bush is now rated 52%/43% by these same respondents. So the Democrats’ last-ditch refrain–“at least he’s better than Bush!”–has reached its sell-by date.

Of course, Obama is a lame duck. Most significant for next year’s election is how voters view his performance on individual issues, where Obama has always fared worse than his overall approval scores. If we assume that his former Secretary of State will be the Democrats’ 2016 nominee, his scores on foreign policy are most relevant. And they are brutal:

ISIS 32%/63%
Foreign affairs 43%/55%
Terrorism 45%/51%

So Hillary is going to have a tough time running on her record as Secretary of State.

Which brings us to the second CNN poll, which showed Mrs. Clinton with a negative 46%/50% overall approval rating. (Paul wrote about that one, and a WaPo poll on Hillary, here.) Byron York went behind the top line of the CNN survey to figure out who does, and who doesn’t, like Hillary. For the most part, the answers aren’t surprising. Clinton suffers from a horrible gender gap: men disapprove of her by 38%/58%. But in general, she is viewed positively by Democratic party groups–minorities, urban dwellers, and, perhaps surprisingly, young people, and negatively by everyone else.

Byron concludes that these numbers aren’t necessarily so bad for Hillary, because she rates pretty well with the same coalition that carried Obama to two victories:

[L]ook at women, minorities, young people, and people who make less than $50,000. Those are the core building blocks of the Obama coalition, and Clinton is in good shape with them. That has to be heartening for Clinton strategists. The problem, of course, is that Obama attracted enough voters from other groups — men, whites, older people, and those making more than $50,000 — to win handily not once but twice. Whether Clinton can do that is a very open question.

True, but I think Hillary faces another, tougher challenge: getting the voters who tell pollsters they like her to the polls. I don’t think Hillary will lose because hard-core Democrats turn against her, but I think she is very likely to lose because she can’t generate enough enthusiasm to motivate casual voters to turn out. Certainly memories of her role in the Obama administration’s discredited foreign policies won’t help.