Following on the heels of President Barack Obama’s lowest approval rating in the history of his presidency, Congress earned … its lowest approval rating in the history of this Congress, according to a Gallup poll released today. The Hill’s Michael O’Brien reports:

Just 13 percent of U.S. adults said they approve of the way Congress is handling its job, tying a previous low point set in December of 2010, during the lame-duck session.

Disapproval of Congress hit an all-time high of 84 percent, eclipsing by one point the 83 percent disapproval rating that lawmakers were given in that same December edition of the poll.

Approval of Congress slipped to 21 percent in the immediate aftermath of the debt deal, and just 24 percent of Americans said that most members of Congress deserved reelection. (Fifty-six percent said their own representative deserved reelection, not an all-time low, but still a dismal number relative to past levels.)

The most telling number comes in the last paragraph: Just 24 percent of Americans said that most members of Congress deserved reelection. The anti-incumbent mood of 2010 looks likely to continue in 2012. Given the extraordinary depth of the people’s dislike of Congress (the depth is what’s new, not the fact of popular suspicion of and disgust with politicians), The Fix’s Chris Cillizza has speculated that this election could be one of the most unusual in history. In a post earlier this month, Cillizza quoted several political strategists who suggested that, in 2012, Republicans could lose the House even as the Democrats lose the Senate. “The best place for a politician to be in 2012 is not on the ballot,” one strategist said. Incidentally, in support of that theory, as early as March, betting markets on InTrade gave Democrats better odds of retaking the House than of retaining the Senate. Should that happen, it would be the first time in the past 50 elections that control of the House switched to one party while control of the Senate switched the other way.

All of which reminds me: The GOP presidential primaries are awfully fun to watch — and winning the presidency will be absolutely essential to the repeal of Obamacare — but the congressional elections will be every bit as important to the enactment of a conservative agenda. That’s one of the reasons I’m relieved to learn Rep. Paul Ryan reputedly doesn’t plan to run for the presidency and one of the reasons I kinda like the Minnesota GOP Chairman’s suggestion that Tim Pawlenty ponder a Senate run: We need bang-up, bright, principled statesmen who can handily win election or reelection to Congress as much as we need a presidential contender.