News of the CBS poll dropped while I was driving yesterday evening to Des Moines to cover tonight’s Republican debate, and in looking at the figures this morning, the White House has to be happy this came out on a Friday night. Despite a three-month strategy to claim the moral high ground through class warfare, not-so-coincidentally occurring with labor-backed protests in most major cities, Barack Obama’s approval numbers have not changed much at all. The latest CBS survey shows his job approval under water at 44/46, but that’s not the worst part of the poll results for the President:
Less than one year out from Election Day 2012, voters remain overwhelmingly pessimistic about the economy, and their concerns are taking a toll on President Obama’s re-election chances. Just 41 percent of Americans think Mr. Obama has performed his job well enough to be elected to a second term, whereas 54 percent don’t think so.
The president’s overall approval rating remains in the mid-40’s, according to a CBS News poll – lower than the approval ratings of Mr. Obama’s four presidential predecessors at this point in their first terms. Mr. Obama’s approval rating is dragged down by his poor marks for his handling of the economy – which, at 33 percent, is the lowest rating of his presidency in CBS News polls.
Mr. Obama receives better marks on foreign policy and for his leadership skills. But when it comes to leading the economy in the right direction, voters are unimpressed: Just 28 percent think he has made progress on improving the economy. And most Americans say the president doesn’t share the public’s priorities, according to the poll, conducted December 5-7.
This last point is key in the context of Obama’s strategy this year. Since his speech to a joint session of Congress in early September, Obama has vigorously positioned himself as the champion of the middle and working classes, attacking Republicans as the party of the wealthy and pushing for redistributive policies, including those in his so-called “jobs bill” that even Democrats wouldn’t pass. That strategy has been a total flop. The numbers on the question of whether Obama shares the priorities of voters fell to the worst in the CBS series, 41/54, not coincidentally the same percentage as the question of whether Obama deserves re-election. In April, that was 43/53, and in May 2010 — as Obama headed for a historical mid-term rebuke — it was 45/47. It hasn’t changed the perception that Obama is helping Wall Street more than average Americans (42/38).
The damage can be seen in the question of whether Obama has been a uniter or a divider (38/47), with independents breaking 35/48 on the question. Obama is also -18 among independents on the re-election question, 37/55, a harbinger of disaster in November. Even while Obama keeps fanning the flames of class warfare, no one is sure what Obama intends to do with a second term anyway. Two-thirds don’t have a clear idea on his second-term goals (32/66) — and that includes a majority of Democrats (46/52) along with more than two-thirds of independents (29/69).
Obama’s reboot as a class warrior has not changed the trajectory of his decline. In some ways, it appears to have accelerated it. This might explain the new theme of desperately trying to tie himself to Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy, but if this poll gives any indication, Obama will end up going the way of the Bull Moose.