According to Gallup, Obama begins his second year in office with the highest disapproval rating of any president since Eisenhower. He also has the second worst approval rating in 56 years of any president at the onset of his second year. Considering where he started (68 percent approval in Gallup), that’s quite a slide. The causes are many — the weak economy, left-wing policies at odds with the electorate’s sentiments, a health-care bill most Americans dislike, rejection of anti-terror policies that the public has embraced (e.g., enhanced interrogation techniques), and a widely criticized foreign-policy approach. And then, of course, Obama himself has turned out to be less than his starry-eyed supporters had imagined, with skills and a temperament better suited to campaigning than to governing.
We know from historical experience that the approval rating of the president is a key indicator of the number of seats the majority party will lose. So the Democrats who will be on the ballot in 2010 (those who haven’t already fled the field) will need to make the case, to one degree or another and depending on their specific electorate, that they are not Obama. That was what Creigh Deeds tried but couldn’t do in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. And he, at least, had the advantage of never having voted for Obama’s legislative initiatives or offered up much public comment on the Obama agenda. Incumbent Democrats in 2010 won’t have it so easy.
In 2006 the Democrats nationalized the congressional election and in essence ran against George W. Bush, corruption, and the mishandled Iraq war. In 2010, be prepared for the Republicans to nationalize the congressional elections and in essence run against Barack Obama, corruption, the mishandled war on terror, and the Iranian nuclear threat. History doesn’t always repeat itself. But sometimes it does.