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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

November 15: Polling Panic

Experiencing a bit of vertigo over assessments that Obama and Democrats were riding high and ready to crush the GOP in 2014 just a few weeks ago, but are now doomed to oblivion today, I took a look at some numbers at the Washington Monthly, and regained a bit of perspective. First, I quoted Jonathan Bernstein:

Obama’s popularity is probably at the low point of his presidency (again, depending on the adjustments, he’s either a bit below or a bit above his previous low. But it’s not any kind of unusually low low point (he’s nowhere near Truman, Carter, Nixon, W.), there’s no particular reason to expect the slump to continue, and myths aside no reason to believe he won’t recover if the news turns better. Granted, it’s hard to know what to expect from healthcare.gov, but it’s not as if it’s getting worse over time. I’m not saying his numbers will go up. Just that it’s more or less equally likely as further drops….

As for electoral effects? I wrote an item dismissing direct electoral effects of the shutdown against Republicans back last month; that post pretty much works now, in reverse for effects against Democrats. I should say: it’s far easier for sentiment against the president to translate into midterm electoral losses than it is for feelings against the out-party. So if Obama is unpopular in November 2014, it will hurt Democrats. But today’s frenzy about the ACA is going to be mostly forgotten by then, one way or another, just as the shutdown seems forgotten today. That’s probably even true, believe it or not, if the program totally collapses, although I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Then I gave a gander of my own to Gallup’s approval rating numbers:

After reading Jonathan Bernstein’s essay on the massive over-reaction to the president’s sag in approval ratings–some of it based, no doubt, on media cherry-picking of whichever polls had the lowest numbers–I went back and looked at Gallup’s weekly approval rating averages over the last few weeks.

The CW is that Obama and the Democrats were riding high–on the brink, perhaps, of a history-defying 2014 sweep of Congress–when the government shutdown ended. That week Gallup had Obama’s approval ratio at a 43/51 average. Now the CW is that Obama is sinking into second-term Bush-like oblivion, with Democrats abandoning him and Republicans roaring towards a conquest of the Senate. The latest Gallup weekly average of Obama’s approval ratio is at 41/52, a booming one-and-a-half point deterioration since the shutdown ended.

Looking at the two junctures in terms of internals, Obama’s approval rating among liberal Democrats has gone from 84% to 85% among Liberal Democrats, from 75% to 74% among Moderate Democrats, and from 69% to 62% among Conservative Democrats. His ratings are the same as before among Pure Independents, and actually up four points among Moderate/Liberal Republicans.

What does it all mean? Probably that most people aren’t breathlessly following events in Washington other than to register their heat and noise.

Democrats didn’t win the 2014 elections in October and they aren’t losing them in November. It’s time to chill a bit.

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