Making things more complicated for the White House is that, perhaps for the last time, the majority-makers in this cycle’s Senate class hail from the declining moderate-to-conservative wing of the party, and their survival is dependent on keeping at least some distance from the president. Yet with most Senate Republicans instinctively opposed to helping Obama, the success of his legislation is dependent on enough of them taking one for the team. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told The Washington Post that at least 10 members of his caucus would take a major hit over gun control. He’s been suspiciously silent on the White House’s proposals.
There’s a good reason why Obama’s former campaign advisers are setting up their new lobbying vehicle outside of the Democratic National Committee: They fully understand their own interests aren’t always aligned with the party’s. In 2012, even as the president shunned campaign stops and fundraising events for down-ballot Democrats, disappointed party officials kept silent, knowing that a rising tide indeed raised all boats. But without Obama on the ballot, that dynamic is far less evident.
Obama’s average job approval of 52 percent is improved from the dog days of 2010 when his approval was stuck in the mid-40s. But Obama began his first term on a much higher note, watching his approval rating fall after pushing for issues that proved to be unpopular. There’s a good chance that gun control and climate-change regulations will be just as polarizing as Obamacare and cap-and-trade, and his approval ratings will decline accordingly.