Pete is exactly right when he says that the Gallup poll finding low approval ratings for President Obama isn’t surprising, and that these numbers are clearly bad for his reelection hopes.
This helps explain the president’s obvious anxiety over the raising the debt limit. As John Sides explains, the conventional wisdom that Bill Clinton benefited from winning his showdown with Newt Gingrich in 1995 is only half-right. Clinton won by Gingrich losing, but the president himself didn’t experience much help in the polls at the time. So Mitch McConnell may be right that the Republican Congress will lose this showdown, but that is cold comfort to Obama, who isn’t running against McConnell or John Boehner or even Eric Cantor. Obama is running against, for now, “generic Republican,” who holds an eight-point lead over him.
So Boehner and McConnell want to raise the debt ceiling, and understandably so. But notice how unperturbed Mitt Romney seems about the possibility of missing that deadline. Same with Michele Bachmann.
Sides follows through on the thought experiment: “what if the meltdown led to, say, 1-2 months of bond rating markdowns, stock market convulsions, disruptions of key government services, and wall-to-wall media coverage of the same? What happens to Obama’s approval rating in that time? My bet is that, just as with Clinton in 1995, it goes down.”
That sounds about right. And I think Obama knows this. How much lower can he afford to have his ratings go? Voters may blame Cantor more than they blame Obama, but “generic Republican” had nothing to do with this. The unemployment rate in 1995 was 5.6 percent. It is currently 9.2 percent. If I were Obama, I’d be nervous too. I’d just try not to show it as much.