If President Obama expected to regain control of the narrative by publicly demanding that Congress pass a rerun of his 2009 stimulus bill, the early returns show that he badly miscalculated. In a CNN poll taken the three days immediately following Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress, in which he repeated 17 times his demand to “pass this bill,” not only did his job approval numbers fail to rise but his disapproval hit its peak:
President Barack Obama’s disapproval rating has reached a new high of 55% while the number of Americans who think he is a strong leader has dropped to a new low, 48%, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday. …
But only 39% approve of how he is handling unemployment, and just 36% approve of the way he is handling the economy, not surprising when more than eight in 10 think the economy is in poor shape.
Opinion on Obama’s economic track record is mixed, however. While fewer than one in 10 (9%) think his policies have made the economy better, about four in 10 (39%) credit them with preventing the economy from being even worse than it is today. On the other side, 37% say Obama has made economic conditions worse. Fifteen percent think his policies have had no effect.
Overall, 55% now say they disapprove of how he is handling his job as president. That’s one point higher than the 54% disapproval rating he routinely hit in polls taken in July and August. Forty-three percent now say they approve of how Obama is handling his job overall. That is not an all-time low for him; he hit 42% a year ago. Six in 10 say Obama has fallen short of their expectations.
People recall that George Bush left office a tremendously unpopular President, but he had enough support in 2004 to win re-election. His tipping point came in 2005 and 2006, with the botched response to Hurricane Katrina (much of which was the fault of local and state response) and the slide of Iraq into a civil war in 2006. Had those not taken place, Republicans would almost certainly have lost some ground in the midterm election of 2006 — historically a bad cycle for a President’s second term — but not lost Congress.
The question now is whether Obama has hit a tipping point. He waited 30 months to address a jobs crisis that had gone unabated since passing his first stimulus bill. He waited through not one but two “Recovery Summers” and stood by while quarterly GDP reports went from mediocre to nearly recessionary. He gave a speech on deficit reduction in April promising a plan that he never delivered. Obama then went on vacation while promising to address the jobs crisis and took almost a month, only to end up regurgitating the same failed formula he used in 2009.
It’s no coincidence that his leadership number has hit its CNN-series nadir after that display last Thursday, nor his peak in disapproval. The White House demanded the most dramatic setting possible for Obama, raising expectations that his jobs speech would be a game-changer. And it might have been, but not in the way Obama intended. Suddenly, polls are showing even steeper drops in support for Obama and his leadership in general, and Obamanomics in particular. The ambiguous, frustrated, and impotent performance revealed just how empty the intellectual gas tank has become at the White House.
If this is indeed the tipping point, we will see Democrats in Congress start to peel away from Obamanomics, Obama’s party struggle in safe districts and states, and rising calls for a primary challenge. We’re seeing two out of three today alone.