Good lord. He did it.
No, just kidding. Dip into the crosstabs and you’ll see that reaction was more nuanced than the headline implies:
He barely moved the dial on the key questions about whether this would achieve anything or whether it’s even in America’s national interest to do it. In which case, how is he at 61 percent support for his approach (and 47 percent on whether the case he made was convincing)? Two explanations, I think. One: Last night’s audience was probably more pro-Obama than the electorate generally. Some O-haters might have watched just to see if he’d keep bumbling, but among low-information voters, you’re probably more likely to have spent 15 minutes on this if you’re a casual fan than a casual critic. And if you’re going in as a fan, chances are you’re coming out thinking his Syria plan sounds solid-ish — although not so solid as to prevent 50 percent from saying that he didn’t make the case.
Two: What exactly is “his approach” at this point? A week ago, this speech loomed as something important because he was going to pound the table for war. As it turned out, thanks to Putin’s weapons-inspection charade, he ended up pounding the table for … not going to war so that we can kick this can down the road for a few more months or years while Assad pretends to comply with UN inspectors. Most Americans oppose intervention and now here’s O telling them, “Okay, we won’t intervene, but let me flex my muscles rhetorically at least.” Of course 61 percent can live with that. Among the same crowd, 65 percent think diplomacy can avert a U.S. strike in Syria. If O’s willing to tell them what they want to hear, naturally they’re going to respond favorably.
Paul Ryan, by the way, waited until this morning to declare that he’s a no on attacking too. As a counterpoint to poll-watching, enjoy serial interventionist Bernard Henri-Levy, who helped sell France and eventually the U.S. on making Libya safe for jihadism, arguing that Obama’s duty as a leader is to ignore the polls and bombs away. Actual headline: “The Dictatorship of Public Opinion on Syria.”