One thing that Barack Obama’s press conference today roved is that the president and his staff can read the polls. And what those polls say is this: everyone hates Congress.

The president started his press conference bashing “Congress” for being stubborn on the debt limit and taxes, and then towards the end he had a well-executed riff about how the First Children always get their homework done in advance, so why can’t Congress pass the damn debt limit already?

The interesting thing here, from the standpoint of rhetoric and likely campaign themes, is that Obama chose to call the Bad Guys in this fight “Congress” — not Republicans, or John Boehner and Mitch McConnell (he did, finally, mention them by name briefly at the end). This is not surprising, since Boehner and McConnell aren’t particularly popular, and neither is the Republican Party in general. But Congress fares far worse. Indeed, Congress came in dead last, behind unloved groups such as HMOs, big business, and banks, in the latest Gallup survey of confidence in institutions. Moreover, Congress is safe: it’s possible that Boehner could rally back from his current mediocre approval ratings, but Congress is always mocked and hated.

I’m sure there are plenty of Democrats who would like to hear Obama go after Republicans and their leaders directly. But this is one of those cases in which the president’s self-interest (in re-election) pushes him in a somewhat different direction than what party activists might like. And, subjectively speaking, he seemed very comfortable doing it. Expect to hear plenty more Congress-bashing from Barack Obama.