November 19, 2013
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivers remarks during the second day of CPAC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The latest poll from The Post/ABC News tells a now familiar story reflected in a wide array of recent polling. President Obama’s approval is down to 42 percent with his disapproval rising to 55 percent. Disapproval of his handling of health-care reform is up to 63 percent, and disapproval of the plan itself is up to 57 percent. Sixty-five percent oppose the individual mandate. Obama’s personal ratings are plummeting as well, with a majority (52 percent) holding an unfavorable impression and more people (50 to 47  percent) saying he is not trustworthy or honest than saying he is.

Likewise, the  Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll reports: “Just 38 percent of those polled said they approved of Obama’s job performance, with 55 percent disapproving. That’s the lowest approval, and highest disapproval, the Heartland Monitor poll has recorded for Obama in the 19 times it has measured his standing since April 2009.” Specific figures on his performance are atrocious. (“Just 23 percent said Obama’s agenda would increase opportunity for people like them to get ahead, while 47 percent said it would diminish their opportunities; 25 percent said it would have no impact. . . . Likewise, just 34 percent of those polled said Obama’s economic policies had helped ‘to avoid an even worse economic crisis, and are fueling economic recovery’; a 52 percent majority said instead he had ‘run up a record federal deficit while failing to significantly improve the economy.’”) In the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average, Obama is down to 40.8 percent approval, with 54.6 percent disapproving of his performance.

Congress is also in the dog house. Its RCP average is down to 9 percent. This is hardly surprising since Democrats dislike the House and Republicans dislike the Senate. Liberals would have us believe this is solely a thumbs-down on the GOP, but Republicans barely trail in generic polling, a sharp reversal from the deep hole they dug for themselves in the government shutdown.

In particular, Senate incumbents (where gerrymandering won’t save them) are at grave risk. We already can see the panic set in as Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and others sprint for an Obamacare fix. But is it better to try to fix a statute they voted for or insist they have to trudge ahead? Do they dare bottle up a fix in the Senate, giving Republicans the perfect opportunity to argue that the law remains unchanged and insurers are still trapped in the Obamacare web? When party unity breaks and nervous pols run for cover, they may wind up giving even more fodder to their opponents.

In the past the White House was able to change the topic. (We have had a zillion “pivots” to jobs.) But so far Obamacare seems to be dominating the news, in part because it has become a credibility and competency issue for the White House. Having botched Obamacare’s rollout, Obama and his team are hardly in a position to declare: So how about giving us a crack at climate change! Obamacare, the one item on which the White House cannot retreat, is blotting out all other issues and dragging the president and perhaps Senate Democrats down with it.

As for Hillary Clinton, her husband’s public suggestion that Obama’s “keep your insurance” pledge be kept is small comfort to his wife. Didn’t she run on an Obamacare-like plan? On the left, the real advantage with Democratic voters may go to those who demanded a single-payer system from the get-go. It is the kind of issue that an underdog presidential candidate or a long-shot Senate challenger might deploy to good effect.

Consider, then, how stupid it was for the White House to refuse to delay Obamacare. Had all of this been delayed, not only would we still be talking about the economy or the GOP’s government shutdown, but there would be time and relative calm in which to try to repair the widespread problems. In some sense then, Republicans dodged a bullet. As bad as the shutdown was, Obama’s temporary capitulation would have been worse for the GOP, depriving them of the benefit they now enjoy. If they can stay out of trouble, Republicans may reap the rewards in 2014.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.