The most recent New York Times/CBS poll (which John and Jonathan write about) has President Obama’s approval rating down to a record low of 41 percent. If you are a supporter of the president, the internal numbers are downright depressing. The judgment of the Times seems about right to me: “President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground.”
In addition, yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll (which Alana wrote about) found that President Obama’s approval rating is at 46 percent — even with a sampling advantage that favors Democrats by too much. Fully 59 percent of Americans give Obama negative ratings on the economy, up from early last month, with 50 percent giving the president intensely low marks, the most yet in a Post/ABC News poll. And among independents, 57 percent now disapprove of Obama; and among white people without college degrees, disapproval now tops approval by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, at 66 versus 28 percent.
No president will win re-election with an Election Day approval rating of 41 or 46 percent.
I wonder whether, in light of these polls, George Will might begin to reconsider his column from earlier this month, in which he suggested that we might well be reaching a point in which conservatives, in “taking stock of reality” and in order to “economize” their energies, should “turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than, and not much less important than, electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.”
As it happens, the goal of winning control of the Senate is harder to reach than many people assumed just a few months ago. And it’s not at all clear to me how abandoning the top of the ticket will help down-ballot races.
In any event, and more importantly, Will’s counsel — which edges right up to the line of conceding the election to Obama eight months before a single vote has been cast — strikes me as ill-considered and oddly anti-empirical. Anti-empirical because perhaps the most persistent political fact of the last year is that Barack Obama is a vulnerable incumbent. No president since Jimmy Carter has begun an election year in more precarious shape.
I will repeat here what I have said a dozen or more times before: This does not guarantee Obama will lose or that the GOP nominee will win. But it does mean the political stars are not well aligned for the president. The temper of the country, its voting disposition, is to make Obama a one-term president. And whatever weaknesses Mitt Romney might have, at this point he’s got a reasonable – and probably better than even – chance to win the presidency. That’s not a bad position to be in during what may well be the nadir/near nadir of the campaign for Romney (who has been embroiled in an intense and nasty primary battle for the past two-and-a-half months).
It’s not a state secret that George Will is no great fan of Mitt Romney. But that shouldn’t cloud his judgment about the enduring weakness of America’s 44th president. Helping to oversee a Lost Decade is not usually a recipe for re-election.