A pair of articles, one at the Washington Post, the other at Politico, look at the significance of continuing slide in Obama’s poll ratings.
At the WaPo, pollsters Douglas Schoen and Pat Caddell are firmly of the view that Obama is out of touch with the mood in the heartland, and needs a sharp course correction to avoid a “November bloodbath.” Caddell has told me privately that he has never seen anything remotely resembling the current gap between beliefs among policy elites versus attitudes of the public at large. One might point out that politicians should above all else be in the business of shaping public sentiment. My admittedly parochial view is that Obama is almost reflexively lauded for his rhetoric, when in fact he has done a terrible job here. Schoen and Caddell note:
Recent polling shows that despite lofty predictions that a broad-based Democratic constituency would be activated by the bill’s passage, the bill has been an incontrovertible disaster. The most recent Rasmussen Reports poll, released on April 12, shows that 58 percent of the electorate supports a repeal of the health-care reform bill — up from 54 percent two weeks earlier. Fueling this backlash is concern that health-care reform will drive up health costs and expand the role of government, and the belief that passage was achieved by fundamentally anti-democratic means….
In fact, Monday’s Gallup report showed the president’s weekly job approval rating at a low of 47 percent. And as the Democratic Party’s favorability has dropped to 41 percent — the lowest in Gallup’s 18-year history of measuring it — this week’s Rasmussen Reports survey shows the Republican Party with a nine-point lead in the generic congressional vote. Moreover, independents, who are more energized than Democrats, are leaning Republican by a 2-to-1 margin.
The Politico piece contains strong signs of wishful thinking, of an Administration overly attuned to dynamics in Washington over those in the country at large:
“The President undertook health care because it was the right thing for the country even though it was politically risky,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said. “We don’t share the media’s obsession with poll numbers, particularly months and months from an election. The politics of passing health care will be very good for Democrats. It’s only in this town that not having them fully realized in a matter of days would be seen as a failure.”
Yves here. Huh? Enthusiasm for change is usually highest at the outset; regrets tend to come later. And the reservations about the health care bill are rising rather than abating:
A new Associated Press-GfK poll found Americans oppose the health care overhaul 50 percent to 39 percent – worse rankings than before Congress passed the bill, when polls were evenly split.
Yves again. But Team Obama seems in danger of believing its own PR:
Obama aides say that perceptions in the capital about Obama’s effectiveness and political standing have been changed not just by health care, but also job growth, foreign-policy successes and lower-than-expected costs for the bailout.
“What we got in the Beltway was a break in the losing narrative,” said one of the city’s best-known Democratic consultants. “Obama has won something, and it was against all odds. He had lost the health-care battle a half-dozen times, and he finally got it over the finish line.” (emphasis ours)
Yves here. “Obama has won something” is a very low bar for success. The Administration has demonstrated that it can handle the legislative process when it has a controversial program but also enjoys majorities in both houses.
The Administration seems to be pinning its hopes on continued economic improvement to lead to higher approval ratings. That could prove to be a risky bet.