Normally, discussion of lame ducks must wait until after the midterm elections when the White House’s political influence declines dramatically and even the president’s party begins to think more about a future without the incumbent than the present. But the spectacle of the ObamaCare meltdown and a divided Congress may accelerate this process.

Tracing the president’s approval ratings this year via the Real Clear Politics average poll bar graph, it’s easy to see that the president’s post-election honeymoon died a lingering death this spring once the season of scandals began and has morphed into something that is starting to resemble George W. Bush’s poll numbers in a similar period. It’s not likely that anything that happens in the coming year will result in a media pile-on such as the one that was produced by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But in the absence of anything resembling an economic recovery and with the near certainty that worse is in store abroad courtesy of Iran, his numbers may never recover.

This is more than a semantic question; once the political class in Washington begins to smell the ripe stench of presidential irrelevance it is all over for any resident of the White House. As the president contemplates a fall in which he has far more chances to flop than succeed, the faint echo of quacking is starting to be heard.