How bad has Barack Obama’s slide in the polls become? So bad, Jake Tapper reports for ABC News, that the White House has abandoned the talk of mandates and now cast Obama as a courageous statesman willing to do the unpopular. Why, the world would look much different if Obama was concerned about mandates:

“If we only did what was popular in polls, the banks would have failed, there’s be no domestic automakers, and we’d pull all of our troops out of Afghanistan tomorrow …”

Well, except for that one domestic automaker that didn’t take the government cheese. How is Ford doing, by the way? It leads Government Motors in market share for the first time in 80 years. And can we remember to put the statement on Afghanistan in the memory banks for later retrieval when the Obama administration gets squishy on the Af-Pak theater?

The White House has begun to take the decline seriously — and they should, as Tapper reports:

Low job approval ratings could impact the president’s ability to get anything done this fall. Even Democrats are practically begging the president to improve his game on health care reform.

“I think the president’s got to decide in a sense, and he has, and to step up and really frame this again for us,” said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Dodd is the acting chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, which drafted a Senate health care reform bill.

It remains to be seen what the long-term implications are of President Obama’s precipitous slide. Seven months into his term, President George H.W. Bush was at a high of 73 percent, but he was not reelected. His son, President George W. Bush was at 61 percent at this point in his presidency, but is now known for the most unpopular second term on record.

Congress will concern themselves more with short-term implications. They got an earful of hot dissent when they returned to their districts, and they have to worry about 2010 with a politically-wounded Democrat in the White House. They need to decide whether to tie themselves to a President who seems unwilling or unable to actually lead, or to cut the radical Obama-Pelosi agenda loose and take their chances by distancing themselves.