When I wrote yesterday that the “blame Bush” strategy had reached its expiration date, I had no idea how prescient that was. Pollster Douglas Schoen, who partners with longtime Democratic strategist Mark Penn at Penn Schoen & Berland, has taken his final look at the midterm electorate and finds it extraordinarily hostile to Barack Obama. The President only gets 38% for a re-election bid, but the news is worse than that — much worse, according to US News & World Report:
According to pollster Doug Schoen, whose new poll shows vast support for the Tea Party movement among voters, the president is still liked by about half the nation. In fact, more like him personally than like his policies. Some 48 percent think he’s a nice guy, while just 42 percent approve of his job performance.
But that personal favorability doesn’t translate into re-election support when voters are asked if Obama deserves a second term. Says Schoen: “Despite voters feelings toward Obama personally, 56 percent say he does not deserve to be re-elected, while 38 percent say he does deserve to be re-elected president.” Worse, Schoen adds, “43 percent say that Barack Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush, while 48 percent say Bush was a better president than Obama has been.”
Schoen’s presentation focuses mainly on Tea Party influence on the election, and postulates the effects of a third-party candidate from the Right in the 2012 presidential election. However, there is more immediate data on this election as well. A majority of 53% wants Republicans to control Congress as an outcome of the midterms, while only 36% want Democrats controlling Congress. That more or less corroborates the gap found in Gallup polling on the midterm leanings from yesterday. Overall, the Schoen poll shows a nine-point lead for Republicans on the generic Congressional ballot, 48/39.
Not only that, but the messaging of Democrats is falling flat. Despite the hysteria about money supporting Republican candidates, only 29% of those likely voters polled by Schoen believe that will be the reason for a GOP takeover in one or both houses of Congress. Fifty-three percent say it will be the result of “the perceived failed policies of Obama and the Democrats.” That also dovetails with Greg Sargent’s analysis of the failure of another Democratic message, that Republicans have been too obstructionist in the last two years:
In a post yesterday about Mitch McConnell’s stated desire to ensure that Obama is a “one term president,” I noted that there’s no evidence to speak of that the Dem strategy of pillorying GOP partisanship and obstructionism has paid any dividends.
The internals of today’s New York Times poll seem to confirm this. They suggest that the public just isn’t prepared to believe that Republicans are any more partisan or obstructionist than Dems are. …
This, even though Dems have been relentlessly hammering Republicans as obstructionist, nakedly political and fully committed to nothing more than destroying the Obama presidency for over a year now. This suggests that voters quite properly view both political parties as political — in other words, people expectthem to try to do what it takes to win. Efforts to claim the moral high ground on who’s truly bipartisan and who isn’t come across as so much Beltway white noise.
It turns out that voters are much more interested in policy and track records than partisan bickering. One particular point on policy seems worth noting from Schoen’s analysis, on the Bush tax cuts. More than three-quarters of voters want the tax rates extended for the middle- and working-class earners, hardly a surprise, although 17% oppose this. But a majority wants them all extended, 50/40, preferring to keep money in the private sector.
And perhaps that’s why voters are beginning to prefer the oft-maligned George W. Bush over Barack Obama. It’s worth noting that Bush managed to pass his economic policies with much smaller Congressional majorities than Obama has enjoyed … until now.