Our buddy Allahpundit is an incurable (and self-diagnosed) political Eeyore, permanently locked into a minimum state of DEFCON Three-level pessimism, and ever on the lookout for the latest harbinger of electoral doom. Yesterday, he dejectedly wrote about a new Associated Press poll indicating that Americans are crediting President Obama with a perceived economic rebound. [Warning: Approaching DEFCON Four]. Let's see if we can cheer him up with some countervailing data: (1) A new Gallup poll shows President Obama trailing Mitt Romney head-to-head, and tied with Rick Santorum. (2) USA Today's latest numbers numbers indicate that a majority of Americans believe Obama political views are "too liberal." (3) The president's approval rating has again dunked underwater. And that's all before we get around to Quinnipiac's latest information:
American voters say 54 - 43 percent that the economy has begun to recover, a 51-point shift in opinion since September 1, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. This is a reversal from a September 1 survey in which voters said 68 - 28 percent the economy was not in recovery. But the improved voter confidence does not help President Barack Obama who gets a negative 45 - 49 percent job approval rating, compared to negative 44 - 50 percent rating November 23. Voters say 50 - 45 percent that President Obama does not deserve reelection, compared to 48 - 45 percent saying no in November.
In this poll, Obama gets notably poor marks for his handling of the deficit (32 percent approve/61 percent disapprove), and healthcare (40/56). A majority (52/39) of overall voters, including independents (50/38), believe Congress should repeal Obamacare. A similar majority hopes the Supreme Court will overturn the law. In a recent column, the great Charles Krauthammer built a three-pronged case that the president's signature legislation robs Americans of liberty:
This constitutional trifecta — the state invading the autonomy of religious institutions, private companies and the individual citizen — should not surprise. It is what happens when the state takes over one-sixth of the economy. In 2010, when all this lay hazily in the future, the sheer arrogance of Obamacare energized a popular resistance powerful enough to deliver an electoral shellacking to Obama. Yet two years later, as the consequences of that overreach materialize before our eyes, the issue is fading. This constitutes a huge failing of the opposition party whose responsibility it is to make the opposition argument.
Krauthammer's last point is particularly trenchant. Republican presidential candidates must venture beyond mere pledges to repeal Obamacare. They need to explicitly indict the program and exploit Obama's exposed Achilles' heel. One of Rick Santorum's strongest arguments against Mitt Romney is that his GOP opponent is too wedded to some of Obamacare's core constructs, including the individual mandate, to credibly sound this alarm. Recogizing that the GOP cannot disarm on this issue even if Romney is nominated, conservative policy wonks Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin have penned a lengthy Op/Ed, mapping a course for the former Massachusetts governor to effectively hit Obamacare:
So what, then, should Governor Romney say, if he is the nominee and President Obama suggests that his health-care plan is modeled on the one the Republican enacted? Something, we suggest, like the following: "Your health-care plan, Mr. President, spends a trillion dollars on yet another uncontrollable federal entitlement program and on a massive expansion of a failing Medicaid system. It has an unconstitutional rationing board cut hundreds of billions from Medicare without being answerable to the public, without giving seniors more options, and without using the money to shore up the program or reduce the deficit. It raises hundreds of billions in taxes on employment, investment, and medical research; and after all of that, it wouldn’t even reduce the growth of health-care costs, which is the heart of the problem. And your defense of all that is that it was based on a state program that doesn’t actually do any of those things? ...
Your law increases federal control. It spends money we don’t have, takes choices and access to care away from seniors, raises taxes, and forces middle-class families to give up the coverage they have. Like so much of what your administration has done, it makes the problem worse. That’s why the first step toward a better health-care market — one that’s affordable, innovative, and in keeping with our founding principles of limited government — is to repeal your health-care legislation."
Sound advice, I'd say. Back to the Quinnipiac poll for a moment, prior to a humongous caveat. The survey contained some mixed results for conservatives. On one hand, a majority supports Obama's faux "compromise" on the birth control mandate (although the question wording strongly favors the White House perspective and a plurality opposes forcing insurance companies to provide "free" contraceptives), 55 pecent of Americans support legalized abortion (though 78 percent favor legal restrictions), and a similar number hold a generally favorable view of Planned Parenthood (conservatives need to do a better job informing the public about this, this, this, and this). On the other hand, Americans favor the Obama-derailed Keystone Pipeline project by 41-percentage points, and support Arizona's immigration law -- which the Obama administration has sued to dislodge -- by a 2-to-1 margin.
Now, the critical disclaimer: While issue trends rise and fall slowly over long periods time, election polls can swing wildly. Over the coming seven months, conservatives shouldn't crow too loudly when Obama's numbers fall, and shouldn't despair when his polling appears robust. The Daily Mail's Don Surbur serves up the timely reminder that at roughly this point in their respective presidential cycles, John Kerry led George W. Bush by 12, and Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan by 31 points. In July of 1988 -- roughly four months before election day -- Michael Dukakis held a commanding 17 point advantage over George Bush, Sr. In other words, anything can happen.