Several polls and news stories today are worth noting. The first, apropos Jen’s post, is the most recent National Public Radio (NPR) poll. The health-care numbers — 39 percent strongly oppose ObamaCare, while only 25 percent strongly support it — must be particularly alarming to the White House. Obama’s overall approval ratings, 53 percent, are surely a concern for them as well, given the downward trajectory Obama is on. And the generic congressional vote showing the GOP up one is certain to garner some attention.
A second poll comes from Gallup and shows that only 1 in 4 Americans believes a new health-care-reform law would improve their personal medical care. According to Gallup: “The wariness with which the public approaches the possible effects of healthcare reform on their personal situations is evident from results showing that more Americans say healthcare would worsen their medical care and reduce their access to healthcare, than say it would have the contrasting, positive effects. . . . These results do not coalesce into a terribly optimistic picture of Americans’ views of the perceived impact of healthcare reform.” (h/t: William Kristol)
A third notable story can be found in Politico, where we read:
Democrats giddy with possibilities only six months ago now confront a perilous 2010 landscape signaled by troublesome signs of President Barack Obama’s political mortality, the plunging popularity of many governors and rising disquiet among many vulnerable House Democrats. The issue advantage has shifted as well, with Democrats facing the brunt of criticism about the pace of stimulus package spending, anxiety over rising unemployment rates and widespread uneasiness over the twin pillars of Obama’s legislative agenda: his cap-and-trade approach to climate change and the emerging health care bill.
In arguing that Republicans find themselves on the offensive for the first time since 2004, the Politico story cites the reconfigured political landscape, with Republican candidates leading in the polls in two key gubernatorial elections scheduled for later this year, in New Jersey and Virginia. The story also points out that national Republicans have recently met with success in “persuading a number of top recruits to commit to 2010 races that not so long ago looked considerably less attractive — the surest signal that potential GOP candidates view the playing field as less tilted against them than just a few months earlier.”
Fourth is a story in National Journal, which reports that a mini-resurgence of the moderate GOP brand is quietly taking place in the Northeast.
It’s still too early to say Obama and Democrats are in free fall — but it’s not too early to say they’re in some real trouble. All these developments are taking place within a certain context. President Obama is completing what for him has been quite a bad month: his signature initiative is becoming increasingly toxic, and Obama himself is beginning to bleed politically. His loss of support among independents and the rising opposition to his health-care proposals are the two most alarming developments for the president. In addition, restlessness and wariness among Democrats have quickly given way to deep concern; their angst is increasing with every passing day. That may well be amplified during the August recess, when members of Congress hear directly from their constituents about the exploding deficit and debt, their frustration with high unemployment and a sluggish economy, and their opposition to nationalizing our health-care system.
A revealing couple of straws in the wind can be found in my home state of Virginia, where Republican Bob McDonnell turned the first debate into a referendum on Obama’s national agenda, forcing Democrat Creigh Deeds on the defensive. And Deeds has now missed two Obama health-care events in Virginia — including a town-hall meeting in Bristol today — since he won his party’s nomination on June 9.
Here’s a fairly safe prediction: if the GOP ends up carrying the New Jersey and Virginia governor races in November — and the latest Quinnipiac poll shows Republican Chris Christie up by a dozen points against sitting governor Jon Corzine, and McDonnell is now up several points against Deeds — you’ll see near panic among Democrats. The reason is that while politicians watch poll numbers closely, they watch election returns most closely of all. And if Democrats lose statewide elections in places like Virginia and New Jersey, and Obama is seen to be a contributing factor in those losses, then you may well see a stampede away from ObamaCare and Obamaism.
The political winds have shifted in fairly dramatic ways. Republicans are far from in the clear; they still have significant problems they need to repair. But they do have an opening most pundits didn’t think they’d be presented with, and far sooner than anyone could have imagined.
All of this can, of course, change. The president is a skillful man, and it’s possible for events to break his way. But for now, we can say that Barack Obama — the darling of the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books; Time and Newsweek; MSNBC and CNN; the greatest president since Roosevelt; a person who belongs in the same breath as Lincoln; Evan Thomas’s “sort of God” — is pumping new life into the GOP and may be turning America into a more conservative nation. What a strange and endlessly fascinating world politics can be.