From the latest Newsweek poll, which shows President Obama's approval rating down 9 percentage points from July to a low of 48 percent:
Forty-six percent of Americans prefer Obama's handling of the economy, compared to 30 percent who say the Republicans have a better approach. Similar gaps persist on job creation, tax policy, the federal budget deficit, and the handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only issue where Americans say Republicans in Congress are doing better than the president is on the use of military courts vs. civilian trials for terrorism suspects. Thirty-eight percent prefer the GOP approach while 34 percent prefer Obama's.
These numbers aren't entirely rosy for the White House or its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill -- but they also belie the notion that the Democrats are sunk in November. No matter what the prognosticators inside the Beltway tell you, the Republican Party remains a terribly damaged brand, one in which the American people appear quite unwilling to embrace even as they become less endeared of Barack Obama.
It is true that these numbers do not represent a head-to-head between the Democrats on Capitol Hill and Congressional Republicans -- let alone the multitude of individual candidate races that will determine control of the House and Senate in November. Nevertheless, it is simply not yet clear that the Republican Party is anywhere close to sealing the deal with voters, who still prefer President Obama's approach to the failed ideology of George W. Bush and his ilk in the GOP leadership.
The Pew Research Center is out with its latest round of polling, which as always contains a great deal of information and detail. But rather than get in too deeply in the weeds, I'd like to take a look for a moment at President Obama's approval rating.
According to Pew, 64 percent of the country approves of the job that Barack Obama is doing as President, while a paltry 17 percent disapprove. Perhaps more importantly, nearly as many Republicans voice approval (34 percent) as do those who voice disapproval (41 percent). Among moderate and liberal Republicans, President Obama actually scores a net positive rating, with 46 percent approving and 30 percent disapproving.
So where are the members of Congress speaking for the third of all Republicans, and nearly half of moderate and liberal Republicans, approving of Barack Obama? Not a single House Republican -- not even the handful who profess to be moderates -- voted in favor of the President's first agenda item, the stimulus bill, and all but three Senate Republicans also voted no on the measure as well.
The Beltway press seems intent on calling the near-unanimous opposition to Barack Obama from the Republican Party a good thing for the GOP -- but with a third of the Republican base siding with the President, don't the Republican leaders in Capitol Hill run some real risks of defections from voters in the coming years by acting so intransigently?
Here's my question, though, and it's not one I have been hearing a great deal about: Where were all of these Republican wannabe deficit hawks just eight years ago, when in a time of significantly less economic peril George W. Bush was pushing a measure that increased the national debt by $1.35 trillion -- or 70 percent more than President Obama's stimulus plan?
The answer is simple, for those inquiring minds. All 211 House Republicans who voted on the Bush deficit-creating legislation voted in the affirmative (interesting how the caucus unanimously supported unnecessary tax cuts for the ultra wealthy without concern for deficits, but unanimously opposed a necessary stimulus package that serves to help the entire nation out of a crisis precipitated under the watch of former President Bush). All but two Senate Republicans also voted the package, which helped begin the process engaged in by the Bush administration of nearly doubling the national debt (all but three voted against the Obama stimulus this year).
Shockingly, the rank hypocrisy and opportunism isn't being talked about much within the Beltway press. But considering that the American public is overwhelmingly siding with President Obama over the Congressional Republicans, at least it seems that some are getting it even if some elites aren't.
Politico decides that Judd Gregg's decision to back out his cabinet nomination has "embolden[ed]" the Republican Party. The website also passes on GOP spin saying that Barack Obama struck out in his attempts at bipartisanship, that his outreach to Senate Republicans was "like a bad date." President Obama, the spin explained, "[won] the battle [lost] the war."
I'm not certain what's in the water inside the Beltway, but it's hard to see how this has all been good for the Republicans. Take the stimulus. Barack Obama came into the process indicating that he wanted a $775 billion package on his desk by President's day -- and this looks like exactly what he's getting. He reached out to Republicans, they snubbed him, and he still got the bill passed.
Or take the cabinet. President Obama invited an unprecedented (at least in recent memory) three Republicans to his cabinet, including one to the top cabinet position of Defense Secretary. Just because one nominee decided after he sought out and eventually received a position in the cabinet that he had cold feet doesn't mean that this will swing back and hurt the President. (As I've wondered before, Gregg knew what he was getting into when he made his entreaties to the Obama administration, the stimulus package was already floating around before he was nominated, and Gregg himself flacked for the bill -- but now says he has a serious problem with the legislation?)
In fact, this all seems to play into the meme being accepted by the public, if not the establishment press, that Republicans are going out of their way to snub the very gracious President Obama. Don't believe me? Look at the sheer numbers, which show that Americans support the White House over Congressional Republicans by greater than a 2-to-1 margin.
The chattering class may be itching to declare victory for the Republicans, but I just don't see it. Then again, the pundits also thought that George W. Bush was moments away from a major political comeback for the last four years, and that never panned out, so maybe we should just tune them out.