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How Low?

Observing that Obama has hit a new low (45 percent) in Gallup, Ben Smith comments that “it sure is hard to make the case that all this health care talk is, at this point, anything but a political liability.” For Obama and the Democrats in Congress, it seems. As for the latter, the RealClearPolitics poll average has lawmakers at 19.3 percent approval and 75.7 percent disapproval. The spread has never been wider since the start of Obama’s presidency.

Democrats tell us — or tell themselves as panic grips them in the middle of the night — that this will improve once they pass an overwhelmingly unpopular bill through a series of parliamentary tricks. Yes, it sounds loony, and it is. But the hope — some would say the magical thinking that has gripped them — is that the base will recover its enthusiasm and stem the tide of rising anger. But the base isn’t that thrilled with ObamaCare. So “the Left will like us more” strikes one as the sort of desperate justification a San Francisco speaker of the House in an utterly safe seat would say. As Kim Strassel writes:

To believe this is to believe that a liberal base that remains furious with the White House on Guantanamo, on Afghanistan, on cap and trade, will turn out in enthusiastic droves because the White House passed a health bill that the same base views as a cop out. That base doesn’t want a health-care victory; it wants a public option. Unless the president is prepared to give it to them, Democrats might not want to bet November on base support.

There really is no telling how low the numbers can go for Obama and Congress. As George W. Bush’s numbers in his second term drifted lower and lower, Republicans kept waiting for the moment when they’d would recover. The Iraq war was going better, the economy hadn’t yet cratered, and Katrina was off the headlines — yet the numbers didn’t recover. Fairly or not (and deprived of the example of Obama, which has proved a boon to Bush nostalgia even among his grumpiest conservative detractors), the voters had tuned out and given up. That’s what can happen to a president.

In this case, Obama has more than two and a half years to recover. But overexposed and devoid of credibility, having frittered away precious capital on a hugely unpopular agenda item and created havoc in his own party, he cannot count on those numbers improving. Indeed, if he passes this over the protestations of the public — or if he doesn’t, and is reviled by his side as inept — he may look back fondly on the days when his approval rested in the mid 40s.


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