Michael Barone

Obama's job approval now is just about identical to Bush's at this point in his second term. It may not fall as far as Bush's did. But the numbers and the news don't suggest that Democrats will flock enthusiastically to the polls in 2014 and 2016.

At the same time, it's not apparent that Republican voters are taking heart from these developments. Their party seems divided even more than is usual for a party that's been out of the White House for five years.

Republicans are split on immigration, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida rallying the Senate Gang of Eight bill and other Republicans denouncing it as amnesty. They're divided, as we saw in the House last week, on the farm/food stamps bill.

They're divided especially on foreign policy. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and others labeled as neoconservatives have long called for military aid -- perhaps a no-fly zone -- for the Syrian rebels. They've defended the administration's surveillance programs.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been shrewdly seeking attention, takes an opposite view. He's against involvement in the Middle East and decries the use of drones and data mining.

Republicans had a weak field of presidential candidates in 2012, and the strongest of them, Mitt Romney, won only 1 million more votes than McCain had in 2008.

The party seems likely to have a much stronger field in 2016 -- and one with a wide range of positions and platforms.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has put forward fiscal plans that have been backed by almost all House Republicans. But there could still be wide disagreement on economic issues in the presidential primaries.

There could be disagreement on health care, as well. No one is sure how the rollout of Obamacare will go. It could be a disaster, or it could produce just minor "glitches and bumps," in the president's words.

Republican politicians are united in opposing Obamacare. They are, unsurprisingly, not united on how to respond to a rollout that hasn't happened yet.

Often one of the two major parties is in disarray. Today, unusually, both of them are.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM