If Barack Obama hoped to gain some breathing room with his vacation, or perhaps even pick up some sympathetic vibe for eulogizing Ted Kennedy on Friday, Rasmussen’s latest poll shows that nothing has changed in the direction of his approval ratings.  With one of the three days in Rasmussen’s presidential tracking poll after the wake, Obama has hit his highest level of strong disapproval yet, at 42%.  The “passion index” has now hit -10 — not the worst of his term thus far, but certainly not good:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 32% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove. That’s the highest level of Strong Disapproval yet recorded for this President and it gives Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -10 …

Overall, 47% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. That matches the lowest total approval yet measured for Obama. Fifty-two percent (52%) now disapprove.

Support for the health care reform package proposed by the President and Congressional Democrats has stopped falling, but most voters are still opposed.

The polling on ObamaCare has frozen at 53%-43% disapproval.  That’s unchanged from two weeks ago, which indicates that the big push from unions, AARP, and other advocates in the wake of the town-hall meetings has had little effect.  They may have arrested the free-fall, but they’re not changing any minds.

Congress has a mighty challenge in front of them when they return, and not just on health-care reform.  They also have to convince a strong majority that they belong on Capitol Hill:

If Americans could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, 57% would throw out all the legislators and start over again. Just 25% would vote to keep the Congress.

Before anyone gets too giddy about that result, it’s just about the same as it was in October, when Democrats gained a large majority in both chambers:

Overall, these numbers are little changed since last October. When Congress was passing the unpopular $700-billion bailout plan in the heat of a presidential campaign and a seeming financial industry meltdown, 59% wanted to throw them all out. At that time, just 17% wanted to keep them.

Unsurprisingly, a plurality of Democrats (43%) want to keep the Congress they have.  Unfortunately, few Democrats in the House and none in the Senate can get re-elected just on the basis of party-line votes.  Independents, who broke hard for Democrats in the last two Congressional elections, are much less sanguine about their leadership.  Seventy percent would vote to throw out Congress, as opposed to just 15% that would keep them, another indicator of big trouble ahead for Democrats in 2010.

No one has been terribly impressed with the performance of Congress lately, which drives those numbers.  A solid majority, 54%, believe Congress doesn’t understand bills before voting on them.  That wins pluralities or majorities across almost all demographics, but especially independents, who go 65%-20% for lack of comprehension.  Only 38% of Democrats think Congress understands the bills, as opposed to 32% who think Congress hasn’t a clue — hardly a vote of confidence in their own leadership.

The consensus seems to be that we have a collection of Fools on the Hill. Unfortunately, it’s not in an ironic sense, as the Beatles song had it (a tribute to their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi), either. Here’s my favorite version of the song, by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, shown here performing it live: