On Wednesday, the latest Quinnipiac poll told the story:
Barack Obama's job approval rating has dropped to a negative 44 - 48 percent, his worst net score ever, and American voters say by a narrow 39 - 36 percent margin that they would vote for an unnamed Republican rather than President Obama in 2012, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
This compares to a 48 - 43 percent approval for Obama in a May 26 national poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University and a 57 - 33 percent approval last July, just before the political firestorm created by opposition to his health care plan galvanized political opponents and turned independent voters against him.
In this latest survey of more than 2,000 voters, independent voters disapprove of Obama 52 - 38 percent and say 37 - 27 percent they would vote for a Republican contender in 2012.
American voters also say 48 - 40 percent Obama does not deserve reelection in 2012.
Voter approval of the President's handling of some of the nation's problems shows:
•Disapprove 56 - 39 percent of his handling of the economy;
•Disapprove 46 - 43 percent of his handling of foreign policy;
•Disapprove 51 - 41 percent of his handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill;
•Disapprove 58 - 30 percent of his handling of illegal immigration;
This matches similar results from the left leaning PPP poll released a week before which shows most potential 2012 GOP challengers beating Obama.
One driving factor in Obama's downturn is found in Democrat Stan Greenberg's poll reported by Politico: 57% of voters think Obama is too liberal. The same polling firm found that 55% of Americans think the word "socialist" applies to Obama.
So why are libs so down on Obama?
John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei writing at Politico pondered why "Obama is still widely perceived as flirting with a failed presidency." Citing liberal writers like Eric Alterman,who wrote in The Nation that most liberals think the president is a “big disappointment." They go on to discuss how Obama's support on Capitol Hill among Democrats has been damaged by recent squabbling over the elections and the impression that Obama, who was never really liked on the Hill, doesn't have the experience and the know how to govern effectively (where have you heard that before?).
Alex Spillius writing at the U.K. Daily Telegraph describes Obama's problem this way:
[T]he president and his advisers have failed to describe his goals or his broader philosophy with any concision at all. He remains an enigma whom the electorate struggles to get a handle on.Even Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor during the Carter years [full disclosure: Zbig was my professor in national security topics at Columbia University in the late 1980's], came out to say that there is a "sense of pervasive malaise" in the country. Readers may recall that after suffering what was called the "malaise" of the Carter years, voters dumped that failed president for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and never looked back.
Perhaps the president and his vaunted speechwriters and message mavens simply feel too battered by the storms of war, economic stagnation and BP's oil spill to rediscover their golden touch from the campaign. They have certainly over-indulged their belief in his magnetic persona and his sweeping oratory, which now sounds flat and predictable.
Whatever the reasons, the failure to create a narrative of what Obama is trying to achieve has helped generate a sense of a president on the verge of failure, even though his legislative achievements have been considerable.
Impact for 2010?
The Qunnipiac poll also reports that "Republicans hold a 43 - 38 percent lead on the 'generic ballot,' compared to a 42 - 34 percent Democratic lead in July 2009." A five percentage point lead in the generic ballot spells big wins for Republicans in the fall elections. That same advantage is measured in many similar polls. Along with Obama's declining popularity (Real Clear average) and the average of right track/wrong track polls, the 2010 election may shape up to be a perfect storm sweeping Democrats from power in numbers that are unprecedented in recent decades.
If the 2012 election was held today Obama would be defeated in a landslide. But gaze into your crystal ball and jump forward two years and the picture may be quite different. Let's assume that in this fall's election the perfect storm sweeps Dems from control of both houses of Congress. Will Obama seek to become the centrist he campaigned as in 2008? Unlikely. His rigid liberal ideology leaves no room for true compromise. What's more likely is that Obama and remaining Dems in Congress will revert back to the tried and true playbook in which they accuse GOP led rollback of Obama's excesses as taking food and health care away from kids and seniors while poisoning the air and water and giving tax breaks to the rich at the expense of the poor. Why not? That bag of tricks has worked well for decades as they have a "news" media on their side willing to report their outrageous charges seriously.
Republicans may also be challenged by our own success. Tea Partiers might easily sour and lose their enthusiasm if GOP leaders are not successful in rolling back Obama's worst excesses or show enough zeal in doing so. The enthusiasm gap which benefits Republicans now may be lost. If that happens, the well funded hyper-organized lock step storm troopers of the left may march back to power in 2012.
While it's easier to support GOP leaders in opposition, will tea partiers and independents continue to do so when the hard choices are made in the runup to 2012?