With all the talk about Obama’s resurgence from the Democratic bloodbath on November 2nd, you might think that his approval rating had increased. After all, such a conclusion would be a reasonable assumption after the media love-fest Obama enjoyed during the closing days of the 111th Congress. It would stand to reason that in order for a President to experience a “comeback,” he would need to experience some increase in popularity.
Well, according to Gallup, if you made any of these logical assumptions during the past few weeks, you would be wrong. Obama’s approval rating has actually decreased from its post-midterm election peak of 49%. Obama’s approval rating is now at 47%, and despite the belief of the mass media that Democratic legislative success would translate into increased popularity for Obama, this comeback has yet to materialize.
The most important lesson to be learned from this experience is one that is really quite obvious. Whether you are talking about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, START, or the Bush Tax Cuts, none of these items are particularly salient issues to the voting public. No one cares about gays serving openly in the military, no one cares about an arms reduction treaty that has no impact on our national security, and to be honest, while people are no doubt anxious to ensure that their taxes remain low come January, they don’t particularly care anymore now that the tax capitulation is complete.
None of this legislation matters a bit to Obama’s electoral chances because the only way he will have a chance to be reelected in 2012 is if the economy grows significantly. While people are happy that their taxes are low, Obama has already sworn to increase them when the tax package expires, and running a campaign on the premise of increasing taxes is not necessarily the smartest move for any political candidate. What people actually care about is seeing results. They don’t particularly care about legislation or process, they care about substance and growth. If unemployment remains in the 9% range, Obama won’t have a chance in hell come 2012.
Now, if we want to talk about starting a comeback, we really have to look at what Obama has accomplished in order to change his economic approach to rectify the problems of his regulatory regime. In terms of leadership, Obama has appointed 5 new members to his economic council. Only, none of these members are actually “new” at all. Each one has been chosen from within the ranks of the Administration– not from outside the White House and certainly not from among the ranks of the business community as would be prudent. In fact these nominations have even prompted liberal journalist Ezra Klien to pen the lead of his article today saying: “We’re two years into the Obama administration, and “change we can believe in” has become “continuity we can believe in.”
The next step would be to scrutinize Obama’s approach to industry in order to determine if he has decided to change his job-killing, adversarial approach. Well, we see a de facto moratorium on Gulf oil drilling, and we see Obama walking back on campaign promises to vastly expand the reach of offshore oil production. More importantly, we see that Obama seems content to seperate fossil fuel production from the overall economy of our nation, which is economic ignorance at its peak.
But, perhaps Obama has decided to slack off on his regulatory regime? Not a chance. On Sunday, the EPA will begin to regulate green-house gases from power plants and factories for the first time. It bears noting that Obama initially warned the Congress that he would resort to EPA regulations in the case that climate change legislation failed to pass,and then, after acknowledging his shellacking on November 2nd, seemed to recant those threats, only to move in with this newest endorsement of job-killing regulation.
So, if the media wants to talk about an Obama comeback, fine. But they should at least have substantial support to back those claims, and the reality of the situation– as everyone with any knowledge can attest– is that the only policy aspect that matters to Obama’s electability in 2012 is economic growth. That is not to say that other issues will not be important in 2012. A year is a lifetime in politics, and any number of developments could affect the narrative of the 2012 campaign. However, one thing is certain about Obama: the economy has become the irreversible measuring stick for his progress as President, and though other issues may become increasingly salient over the next year, Obama will always be judged by the state of the economy.