The oil spill, the Arizona law, and the fallout from the Greek crisis are a trifecta of issues that are driving Obama’s job approval ratings to an all time low. After four months of hovering between a low of 46% and a high of 49% in the daily Rasmussen polls, Obama has dropped precipitously to only a 42% approval rating.
The three issues that are depressing his ratings have a great deal in common. In each case, the president originally seized on the issue to make populist political hay. Then, when the problem wouldn’t go away, voters began to realize that Obama is, in fact, the president and, logically enough, blamed him for the three ills that beset them.
When oil started to spill into the Gulf, President Obama saw a partisan opportunity to blame Republicans who had chanted “Drill, Baby, Drill” all during the summer of 2008 as high gasoline prices gave the McCain candidacy new steam. Even though he had, with lamentable timing, conceded and allowed expanded drilling a few weeks before the rig exploded, the impetus for drilling was clearly seen as Republican and the disaster hurt Republican ratings. Obama couldn’t resist also piling populist scorn on British Petroleum, lambasting big oil for the spill.
But then the oil did not stop flowing. Now the American people are tired of hearing about BP’s faults and are demanding presidential action to stop the spill. As the oil seeps onto the beaches of Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, it also seeps into Obama’s poll numbers and drags them down.
As soon as the Arizona law authorizing cops to pick up illegal immigrants was passed, Obama jumped on the issue and tried to use it as a way to bolster his flagging support among America’s Latinos. But polls showed that the president had shot from his hip…and missed. Voters strongly backed the Arizona law and turned against Obama’s position. Panicked, he sent 1200 National Guard troops to the border to stop the bleeding in the polls this issue has caused.
And, then there is the stock market. After the crash of 2008, Obama was quick to blame banks and other big businesses for their irresponsible behavior and then to take credit for averting a global collapse in the aftermath. So when Greece exploded due to its top-heavy debt load and dragged the stock exchange below 10,000, people wondered if Obama’s populist treatment of the financial markets and his big spending and borrowing was subjecting America to economic peril.
When Moody’s announces that it is considering downgrading the credit rating of the United States of America — the richest nation, by far, on Earth — it raises understandable alarm on the markets.
Why are Obama’s ratings important two and one half years before the presidential election? They will, of course, go up and down in the future and the 42% rating of today may just be a long forgotten blip on the radar screen. But 42% is the lowest Obama’s ratings have ever been. It is bit like witnessing where the seaweed is on the beach. The tide will come in and go out but the seaweed says it was once here and will return to this point again.
Obama got 52% of the vote in 2008. Now he has a 42% approval. So one of his voters out of every five has now turned on him. And once a Democrat who voted for Obama and, all along, says he approves of the president’s policies, now turns and says he disapproves of the job he is doing, it is a traumatic event for the voter. He may go back to approving of his president again, but it gets easier and easier to voice disapproval.
Heading into the fall Congressional elections, a low approval rating is the last thing a president needs. President Clinton lost Congress in 1994, in part, because his job rating fell by ten points in the ten days before the election (after rising earlier in October, 1994 due to his signing of a peace accord between Jordan and Israel). Obama’s dip in the polls comes at a very bad time for him.
And the oil keeps spilling. The illegal immigrants keep coming. And the market keeps tanking.