The latest Gallup poll for CNN/USAToday highlights why Obama's circumstance isn't as grave as many are suggesting. In fact, compared to the Republicans, Obama is downright popular:
Last year, Obama's approval dropped to 42%, a 12% app/dis gap from same pollster. These numbers are objectively worrying, but become less concerning when you look at the Congressional approvals, GOP approvals. This poll found Congressional approval at a new low 14% approval, a staggering 84% disapprove. This gap is the largest seen, by a wide margin, so while Obama is meandering in a zone for the last year, things just get worse and worse for the GOP lead Congress, in the minds of Americans. This comparison is imperative, if one wants to understand who ultimately gets blame, when push comes to shove in the voting booth, who is most vulnerable.
The findings get worse for the GOP. We can all agree that in the debt ceiling standoff, the impression is that the Republicans won the day, Obama "caved". It's true that Obama doesn't come off well in the aftermath of this extended debt deal dance, but considering how Americans feel about the deal, the consensus of who "won", perhaps ownership is an albatross. Only 44% approve of this deal, 52% disapprove. People strongly support tightening government's belt, but they also strongly agree that taxes should be raised. In other words, this debt deal doesn't enjoy popular support, it only address half of the problem and this explains why overall approval of it is so low. To summarize then, only 34% of Americans think Obama and the Democrats are responsible for this deal, this agreement is no "victory" for the Republicans in a strategic sense. The Democrats and Obama can still push the tax angle, arguing it is the reason this debt deal doesn't achieve what is required to quell fears.
Here is the most informative finding:
Next, please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following has handled the negotiations over the debt ceiling in Washington over the past few days.
Approve Disapprove No opinion
Barack Obama 46% 53% 2%
The Republican leaders in Congress 30% 68% 2%
The Democratic leaders in Congress 35% 63% 2%
A clear distinction between Obama and in particular the Republicans. While nobody wins in this debate, more blame clearly goes to the Republican side. Taken further, I can guarantee the GOP Presidential Candidate will adopt the GOP lines on taxes that are so unpopular and a central part of the debt debate moving forward. This debt debate isn't over, Democrats will use the issue of taxing the rich as a cornerstone to pickup seats in the Congress and it will be core point of divergence in the Presidential debate. As well, if people are absolutely disgusted with their Congress, historic lows, it is most noteably an issue for House incumbents who are all up for grabs, whereas the Democratically dominated Senate only has 1/3 of seats vulnerable to "kick the bums out". Relative to Congress, Obama looks attractive, and this is the key dynamic to consider when one speaks of re-election chances. Despite all the warning signs for Obama, his best asset is still the competition, while he falls, they fall further. There is simply no evidence whatsoever that voters will reject Obama for the less flattering alternative, both he and Democrats can take some solace in this underlying fact.