*Much was made of President Obama’s seven point approval rating drop. But there’s really no surprise at the drop.
The history of presidential wins have well shown that presidential approval ratings are fluid and in flux. A flop of a war will deflate a president’s approval ratings. That was the case with Harry Truman with the Korean War, Lyndon Johnson with the Vietnam War and George W. Bush with the Iraq War.
A victorious war, or at least an end to a war, will soar a President’s ratings. That was the case with Eisenhower with Korea, George H.W. Bush with the Gulf War and Clinton with the non-combatant air surgical war in Bosnia. But all three presidents also saw their approval ratings drop at points during their terms. It almost always comes down to the one constant, the economy. If the economy is up, or perceived to be up, presidential approval ratings rise with it.
With Obama, there’s more. The economy is less the issue, than the perception and reality, fiscal matters are too turbulent, unsettled, and even perilous. A surging Dow can’t dispel that fear and unease. For the first time in recent memory, a rising number of Americans blame the Democrats, and President Obama, for the fiscal infighting, stalemate and mess that’s become Washington’s patented trademark. No matter how much or how often, Obama correctly, finger points the GOP for its pig headed, obstructionist, and dogged fight to stall a budget deal, it doesn’t assuage public frustration and anger over the deadlock. There are 435 congresspersons, and 100 senators, but only one president, and he presents a popular and visible target, to dump blame on for the fiscal chaos. A budget, tax, or sequester deal, or even talks between Obama and GOP leaders on a budget resolution, would almost instantly see his approval ratings jump again.
But a few points slide in his approval ratings or the GOP’s intransigence is not Obama’s greatest problem. It’s the heat that he’s taking, and almost certainly will take more of, from Democrats. House Democrats have made it abundantly clear that no fiscal deal can include any tweaks by him, no matter how tepid, to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. Democrats repeatedly remind Obama that he, and they, was the big winners in the 2012 election. And there’s no reason to give any ground to the GOP, especially since Democrats are adamant that much of the fiscal crisis is in part artificial, stage managed, political saber rattling by the GOP to play to conservatives, corporations and the financial industry. In greater part, it’s a ploy to attack their favorite straw man and that’s alleged tax and spend, big government obsessed Democrats.
Obama needs the GOP to cut a deal, which is the only thing that the majority of Americans want to see. But he needs Democrats not to put concrete barriers in front of it. This is the thorny price of governance.