Headwinds for Obama

Rich Galen

6/19/2013 9:06:00 AM - Rich Galen

There was almost no good news for President Barack Obama in the CNN/ORC poll released earlier this week.

As the President giggled and played rock, paper, scissors with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-8 Conference in Ireland, the bloom appears to have begun to come off the Obama Rose as far as the American people are concerned.

This is just one poll taken last week (Tuesday through Thursday), so it might not signal a trend, but it certainly won't generate confidence in the West Wing.

Let's go to the tape.

In overall approval, the President was +8 in May's poll, 53-45. But in the most recent poll the President's approval rating has dropped to 45-54 or -9.

That's a negative shift of 17 percentage points in one month.

Every Democrat who has been pointing to the President's fairly steady approval numbers as evidence that his goodwill among his base has an insulating property to protect him against the NSA snooping, the IRS, the Benghazi problem, the DoJ collecting reporters' phone records and targeting Fox's James Rosen, Syria, Turkey, and maybe even a Kryptonite asteroid that could have the Earth in its sights.

On what are known as the "issue handling" questions (Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling...):

The Economy: 42-57 (-15)

Foreign Affairs: 44-54 (-10)

Deficit/budget: 34-64 (-30)

Immigration: 40-56 (-16)

NSA/Surveillance: 35-61 (-26)

I didn't leave out the good issues. That's the whole list.

On the "Do you consider the President to be honest & trustworthy" question the result was 49-50.

That's only minus one so it doesn't look so bad. But a month ago that result was 58-41 (+17). So, it represents an 18 percentage point drop.

Let's put the actual numbers aside and look at the potential effects of a weakened President on the 2014 mid-term elections. If Obama continues to sink in popularity and trust then Democrats running for election or re-election in the House or Senate will grow wary of being seen with or heard supporting the President.

Even a weak President can raise enormous sums of money, but we may see him doing more events for the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees and the Democratic National Committee than for individual candidates.

The committees can move a lot of money around, but there are limits on how much they can donate to an individual campaign and it's an inefficient funding method.

If the President's numbers are still in the tank this autumn when campaign season gets cranked up, Republican candidates will demand that their Democratic opponents defend Obama.

The Democrats will claim (as Republicans did in the second mid-term of George W. Bush's Presidency) that Obama isn't on the ballot and that the opponent needs to run against "ME" not the President.

It is not clear that a modestly unpopular Obama will do much to change the landscape, but it will almost certainly have a negative effect on Democratic turnout -- notwithstanding what I (incorrectly) thought would happen in 2012.

But the Dems will be correct: Obama will NOT be on the ballot to create enthusiasm and drive turnout. That will be up to individual candidates and, absent a so-far undetected wave in November 2014, it will create a higher electoral hill for Democrats to climb.

If Syria continues to rage, if Iran goes nuclear, if Egypt and Turkey continue their slides from secular to Islamic societies, and if any one of a dozen potential hot-spots flare up over the next 17 months, then Obama's ability to demonstrate leadership in foreign policy might be forever shattered.

If the overall unemployment rate remains above seven percent -- the last time it was below was in November 2008 -- then the young people for whom unemployment is especially vexing may not turn out to vote Democrat. From a New York Times article from last month:

"According to the Labor Department, workers 25 to 34 years old are the only age group with lower average wages in early 2013 than in 2000."

Minority unemployment in May was almost double the overall rate -- 13.5 percent.

Someone who will be 25 years old in 2014 was only 11 when George W. was first elected in 2000 and was just out of high school when Obama was sworn in. Sitting in their parents' homes watching Law & Order reruns is not likely to prompt them go out and work for Obama's Democrats next November.

We'll see if these numbers continue to weigh on Obama, but there doesn't appear to be much on the horizon to put wind in his Presidential sails.