Oh my: Obama's approval below 50%, huge majority opposes announcing Afghan timetable

He’s at 48/50, down seven points in less than three weeks, which I have to think is due to a backlash to the Afghanistan surge. Granted, 62 percent support the escalation versus just 36 percent opposed (although Rasmussen has very different numbers among likely voters), but I’ll bet a lot of that 36 comes from anti-war liberals who were backing him until Tuesday night. Building up troops will lose him lefty votes but, because of his obnoxious domestic policies, it won’t win him any righty ones, so the net overall effect is negative even though public support on the issue itself is overwhelmingly positive.

But that’s only one factor. CNN looks at the crosstabs and says it’s the economy, stupid:

“The poll indicates that the biggest drop in approval comes from non college educated white voters,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “That’s one indication among many that Obama’s growing unpopularity may be more related to unemployment and the poor economy.”…

Obama’s rating dropped 18 points among non-college whites, but only four points among whites who attended college – a good indication that the economy and other domestic issues are hurting the president.

Obama also dropped 15 points among whites under the age of 50, but only four points among older whites.

“That may partly be due to Afghanistan, but the young are also the group hardest hit when unemployment rises. The same is true for white women, whose approval of Obama dropped 12 points,” says Holland.

Well and good, but if the economy’s driving this, why would he crater in just two weeks? There was no major economic news announced between yesterday and November 15, when he was at 55 percent approval. If it’s just ambient despair over unemployment suddenly manifesting itself, it seems to have come on awfully quick. (And should abate a bit in the next poll given today’s numbers.)

The most interesting bit:


Hard to tell what the answer to the first question really means given the public confusion over the timetable. Do voters think the “plan” is merely to aim for July 2011 but leave it ultimately up to conditions on the ground, or do they realize it’s a hard and fast date to start withdrawing? The answer to the second question makes me think it’s more the former than the latter, but whichever it is, you can blame the stupidity of announcing the timetable squarely on The One:

It started out as a projection from the military, intended only for the ears of the president and his top advisors. But in a war council meeting at the White House less than a month ago, Obama proposed making it public.

“Let’s name that date,” he said, according to participants…

Obama opted to take the highly unusual step, senior aides said, because, in the end, administration officials believed the need to put tangible pressure on the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan outweighed any potential cost…

Gates was also persuaded by Petraeus and others that announcing the date would help create an incentive for the Afghans to act, he said this week.

The proposed date also would make it such that the withdrawal of troops would begin just as the campaign for the 2012 presidential election was heating up.

Still, it was crucial to Gates and other military officials that Obama not announce a specific drawdown plan. Doing so could embolden militants, Defense officials said. Gates and others wanted to make sure that the pace of the drawdown would be based on the security situation — not a set timetable.

“Ultimately,” said a senior Defense official, Gates “wanted conditionality, and got it.”

Lord only knows what the plan would have looked like with a leftist Defense secretary leaning on Obama in the war room. Exit question one: Did Gates understand that the July 2011 date was “etched in stone” and not merely a target? Sure didn’t sound that way in his congressional testimony, and there’s nothing in the LA Times piece one way or another. Exit question two: If the pace of withdrawal is entirely based on conditions, what “pressure” is really being applied to Karzai’s government by telling them we’ll start leaving in mid-2011? (In fact, 61 percent in CNN’s poll expect conditions won’t be good enough to withdraw by then.) Does anyone seriously think electoral politics isn’t the driving force here?