There is a lot of commentary about the political fallout from the debt ceiling debate. But at this point, several weeks after the issue has come to the fore and after three press conferences by the president, Obama seems to be incurring a bit of damage.
For example, the president’s three-day rolling average in the Gallup Poll has been 42 approve/50 disapprove (for July 13-15) and 44 approve/49 disapprove (for July 14-16).
As a reference point, this weekend Obama’s approval rating fell to the second lowest point in his presidency, just one point ahead of where he was last August (41 percent approval rating).
Based on these Gallup numbers, it’s reasonable to infer that the debt ceiling debate has not, so far at least, been very good for the president.
That might change, of course, if a bargain isn’t reached by the August 2 deadline. My guess is a deal will be reached before then, and that this matter will soon fade away, yet another topic that was the subject of hyper-intense press coverage and is soon forgotten.
But even if no deal is reached by early August, I’m something of a contrarian on this issue. I believe the president is quite vulnerable, and failure to reach an agreement will hurt him as well as congressional Republicans. And if failure to reach an agreement causes the economy to fall off the edge of a cliff — as many worry and as the president and his team predict – then Obama will suffer in the process.
It’s not simply that Obama was elected in large measure because he was supposed to be a unifying figure in American politics, one who would transcend differences and bring people together and prevent these sorts of messes from happening in the first place. More important, no politician in America has more to lose if we lurch back into a recession. If things get substantially worse, Obama will incur the wrath of voters. He won’t be the only one – but he will, I think, be among the main ones.
This is not Bill Clinton and the 1995 government shutdown all over again.