The usual suspects are very excited by the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finding Obama’s numbers in the toilet. Some context is in order here — more on that below — but there’s no sugar-coating it: If Obama’s approval really is this low, and stays there, it will constitute a serious threat to Dem prospects of holding the Senate.
Still, far and away the more important finding in the poll — if the word “important” has any real meaning — is that the public appears ready for action on climate change.
The poll shows, as always, that Americans are conflicted on “government.” It finds 50 percent think government is “doing too many things,” versus 46 percent who say “government should do more.” And yet, it also finds that 50 percent say most government regulations are “necessary,” versus only 42 percent who say they are “unnecessary and harm the economy.”
And when you get more specific — on climate in particular — public support climbs higher:
— 67 percent strongly or somewhat support Obama’s proposal for the EPA to limit carbon emissions on existing power plants, to reduce emissions significantly by 2030. Only 29 percent oppose it, with a mere 19 percent opposing it strongly (one imagines the partisan breakdown will show most of them are Republicans).
— When competing messages are read to respondents, 53 percent support the idea that these regulations are needed to ensure cleaner air and to address climate change and the natural disasters it causes, and will lead to clean energy and job creation. Only 39 percent say they will hurt jobs and drive up energy prices, and that acting now is futile because China and India won’t. Framing this as a public health and economic issue just might work.
— 61 percent say immediate action (31) or some action (30) should be taken on climate change, versus 37 percent who say more research is necessary before acting (24) or that no action (13) is warranted. (Again, one imagines that 13 percent is mostly Republicans.) This is only one poll, but others have shown similar findings.
Yes, we know, none of this will matter to red state Dems, for somewhat understandable reasons. But these findings still matter. As Sahil Kapur and Steve Benen have explained, Congressional Republicans are eying using the appropriations process to block Obama’s new EPA rules, which could lead to a partial government shutdown. If the public broadly supports government action to curb carbon, Dems can seize on such shenanigans to renew the case that Republicans are ideologically locked into a destructive governing course and are the anti-science party.
Beyond that, as Jonathan Chait has repeatedly argued, the success of Obama’s climate initiative depends on whether the Supreme Court will uphold it. Justices generally seem to take into account (at least to some degree) the state of public opinion and the culture in making rulings. So the fact that the American people appear increasingly inclined to support broad regulatory action on climate — as well as the tradeoffs it requires, which is to say, there won’t be any backlash — could end up being a very huge deal indeed.
* OBAMA APPROVAL SINKS: In the new NBC/WSJ poll, Obama’s approval rating has fallen to 41 percent, and the percentage of those who approve of his handling of foreign policy is at 37 percent (though this poll was taken before the capture of a suspected Benghazi ringleader).
Meanwhile, Dems lead Republicans in the generic ballot matchup by 45-43, which isn’t nearly large enough to offset the Dems’ expected midterm dropoff problem.
* HOW ABOUT SOME CONTEXT HERE, FOLKS? Some commentators are looking at Obama’s 41 percent approval rating and declaring he is “dangerously close to failed presidency territory” or that the public is saying “your presidency is over.”
Sure, Obama’s low approval matters a good deal in the context of the midterms, where it could put the Senate at real risk, particularly if it remains this low. But come on, this isn’t any milestone. The big picture is that the averages show Obama isn’t even at an all time low — he’s at just under 45 percent — and meanwhile, in Gallup tracking going back to 2009, Obama’s approval has hit 41 percent or below a half dozen times in the last five years.
Also: I’m so old that I can remember when Obama’s approval fell to 41 percent in WaPo polling nearly two months ago, which everyone declared a disaster, before going strangely mute when it rose back up to 46 percent in WaPo polling a month later. Come on, people.
* NO AIRSTRIKES IN IRAQ: The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama has for the time being ruled out air strikes on ISIS:
The president wants to avoid airstrikes for now in part because U.S. military officials lack sufficient information to hit targets that would shift momentum on the battlefield….The White House and Pentagon now hold a more skeptical view of the possible effectiveness of speedy airstrikes and instead are considering deploying U.S. special operations forces to provide intelligence and battlefield advice to the Iraqi military, the U.S. officials say. Such an effort, the officials hope, would allow Iraqi forces to mount a counterattack. Officials said Mr. Obama could follow up increased training and advising of Iraqi forces with airstrikes if deemed necessary, but that outcome isn’t a sure thing.
Obviously, the McCain/Graham wing of the GOP will be apoplectic, but Obama may well get a lot of support for Congressional Democrats who are wary of any re-engagement. We’ll know more after Congressional leaders meet with Obama today to discuss the next steps. Meanwhile, the New York Times has a different read, suggesting air strikes are a more active possibility.
* DEM LEADS IN IOWA: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Dem Rep. Bruce Braley is leading gun toting, hog-castrating Republican Joni Ernst in the Iowa Senate race, 44-40. That’s within the margin of error, and the polling average shows Ernst with a scant two point lead, though that could reflect a post-primary-win bump. Today’s Q-poll suggests that bump could be fading.
Iowa — along with Michigan, Colorado and New Hampshire — will be worth watching to determine whether Republicans really are meaningfully expanding the Senate map beyond the core red state battlegrounds.
* ‘PERSONHOOD’ BECOMES BIG ISSUE IN COLORADO SENATE RACE: Rep. Cory Gardner, who is trying to unseat Senator Mark Udall, is up with a new spot devoted mainly to defending his change of position on the “Personhood” measure he previously supported. This is another sign that Dems may succeed in making Personhood a key issue in competitive Senate races where the gender gap will be key to Dem survival.
As Josh Kraushaar points out, Personhood could resonate deeply in the Colorado race because Dems used social issues to take the state legislature. Beyond this, multiple GOP Senate candidates are on record supporting some form of Personhood measure.
* THE LARGER MEANING OF BENGHAZI: Don’t miss Scott Wilson’s deep dive into the politics of the capture of a suspected Benghazi ringleader, and why that’s unlikely to sooth deep anger on the right. As Wilson notes:
How Obama decides to talk about Abu Khattala’s capture in the coming weeks may close the alternately infuriating and baffling episode for many Americans beyond the Beltway….For many in Washington, though, Benghazi has never been primarily about the attacks…Within hours of the news that Abu Khattala had been captured, congressional Republicans congratulated the U.S. military, if not the White House. But the partisan concern shifted quickly to the questions of where Abu Khattala would be held, at a time when Obama is seeking to shutter the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and whether the president would extend legal protections given to civilians charged with crimes.
Once again, where are the civil liberties Republicans on this?
* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, COMICAL-LACK-OF-SELF-AWARENESS EDITION: It comes from this Wall Street Journal op ed:
Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.
Yes, that line actually was written by Dick and Liz Cheney, about American policy in Iraq. As Jim Roberts tweeted, “no mention of Bush.”