If the polls and the pundits are to be believed, voters nationwide are about to deliver a stinging rebuke to our most popular elected official by casting their ballots in favor of our most despised political class. No, I’m not making this up. And it really calls into question what people are thinking, given that they appear poised to vote Republican on Tuesday.
Now, who is the most popular elected official? That would be the much-maligned President Obama, whose job-approval ratings are in rough shape, but who, as we shall see, stands head and shoulders above Congress. Take a look at this, and you’ll see that, in recent polls, Obama’s job approval rating is almost evenly divided between positive and negative.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that 45 percent of respondents approve of the president’s performance and 52 percent disapprove. That seems to be in line with other polls I’ve seen. Yet some polls actually reverse those numbers in Obama’s favor. For instance, this Newsweek poll finds that 54 percent approve of Obama’s job performance and 40 percent disapprove. That does not sound like a president who’s down for the count.
Obama’s numbers are not only much better than those of Congress, but the congressional numbers break down in a way that is favorable to him. The public, according to surveys, despises Congress — but it loathes the Democrats slightly less than the Republicans.
Just one out of many examples: A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that the public gives Democratic members of Congress a 36 percent positive/61 percent negative job-approval rating. The same poll shows that respondents gave Republican members of Congress a 30 percent favorable rating and a 67 percent unfavorable assessment.
You might find a few exceptions, but the emphasis would be on “few.” I’ve been following these numbers off and on since Obama’s inauguration, and congressional Republicans have consistently come in last in the three-way race for job approval.
How to explain the likelihood that the Republicans will make huge gains on Capitol Hill next week? I’m not sure it can be explained. For instance, today’s New York Times reports the results of a poll it conducted with CBS News that shows next Tuesday will be a huge day for the GOP. Yet, bizarrely, the poll also finds:
[N]early 60 percent of Americans were optimistic about Mr. Obama’s next two years in office and nearly 70 percent said the economic slump is temporary. Half said the economy was where they expected it would be at this point, and less than 10 percent blamed the current administration for the state of the economy, leaving the onus on former President George W. Bush and Wall Street.
Those findings are everything Obama and congressional Democrats could hope for. The most you can say, though, is that voters will give the president an opportunity to dig out from the rubble they are about to dump on him next Tuesday. Strange days indeed.