With Santorum’s Goofy Views, Why’s Obama Down in the Polls?
What should we make of those scary poll numbers? The most recent New York Times/CBS poll, conducted March 7 to March 11, reported a big drop in President Obama’s favorability ratings, which declined to 41 percent from 50 percent just a month ago.
This occurred during a period when the economic news was relatively good—the economy created more than 200,000 jobs for the third straight month; gas prices rose but not steeply; and Obama acquitted himself well on the treacherous terrain of resisting Iran’s nuclear ambitions without embracing war.
It was also a period when the Republicans seemed to be imploding with women, thanks to their clumsy blurring of the issues of abortion and contraception. The White House has revved up its outreach to women voters, who presumably don’t want the government messing with their right to contraception.
Yet in this poll, the president’s approval rating declined among all groups, even women. What gives?
First, it’s only one poll. In the most recent Gallup poll, also published Monday, Obama’s approval rating was up, to 49 percent, and up to 51 percent among women. According to Gallup, the president’s popularity has been steadily rising since last fall.
Second, unless the country has lost its mind, it’s hard to believe that Obama won’t make big gains among female voters as Republicans try to turn back the clock on contraception.
Third, however, the fact remains that the recovery is fragile. Even in the Midwestern states, where there are relatively large statistical drops in the unemployment rates, most new jobs are not well-paying. People don’t look at statistics; they consider their own well-being. And most still consider the economy to be on shaky ground. In the Times-CBS poll, 75 percent rated the nation’s financial condition as “bad” or “very bad.”
The president’s room to materially alter that reality is very limited, and a lot of voters have bizarre conceptions of how the economy works. That same New York Times report quoted a voter, Jamie Haber of Orlando, Florida, saying, “I think just being the president of the United States of America, you would have some type of control over gas pricing.”
Obama may have some long-term control over energy costs, but there’s not much he can do between now and November. That doesn’t prevent Newt Gingrich from promising $2.50-a-gallon gas.
Bottom line: Despite the clownishness of the entire Republican field, Obama’s re-election is anything but a slam-dunk. He will need to maximize every advantage that the Republicans give him.
In the end it may well come down to luck and timing. Will we avoid a military confrontation with Iran? A big gas-price hike? Will the job improvements hold?
What’s alarming is not one poll but the possibility that a moderate president could be defeated by one who is far to the right of the country, based mainly on a still-shaky economy.
And anyone who claims to know in March how things will turn out in November is a damned fool.
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