A CBS poll got some attention today because it suggested Democrats are no longer so stalwart in defense of Obamacare, and because the gap in approval between Republicans and Democrats has narrowed considerably. Support for Obama is down to a new low of 37 percent and disapproval up to a high of 57 percent. Approval among women is down 10 percent, and 12 percent among independents. Democratic support plunged from 74 percent to 58 percent. On honesty he’s dropped 11 points, while those who view him as dishonest surged from 35 to 48 percent.
Obamacare approval dropped 12 points in a month, down to 31 percent. Only 7 percent think it is working and should stay the way it is; only 12 percent of Democrats buy that.
If you are a Democrat in an unsafe seat up for re-election in 2014, the numbers scream: Distance from Obama, demand substantial revisions of Obamacare.
The question is whether the president has the wherewithal to turn this all around. In a must-read piece, Peter Berkowitz explains that Obama’s problems, specifically all the things he discovers on the job (no shovel-ready jobs, insurance is complicated, etc.) stem from an intellectual weakness prevalent on the left:
The president and the officials around him are the product of the same progressive version of higher education that simultaneously excises politics from the study of government and public policy while politicizing education. This higher education denigrates experience; exalts rational administration; reveres abstract moral reasoning; confidently counts on the mainstream press to play for the progressive political team; accords to words fabulous abilities to remake reality; and believes itself to speak for the people while haughtily despising their way of life.
The shortcomings that got Obama into the current mess (“the fantasy of a political world subject to almost limitless manipulation by clever and well-orchestrated images”) is precisely what will hamper him in climbing out of the ditch he is in.
Two other handicaps plague him. First, his staff — selected for loyalty and hobbled by the same reality deficit — is remarkably weak. He would have to fire nearly all the key players (Denis McDonough, Valerie Jarrett) to overhaul his team. The likelihood of that happening or of him hiring independent-minded realists is exceedingly low. Second, he is quite thin skinned and bristles at criticism from the press or Republicans, whom he considers partisan, petty and deceptive. If he doesn’t want to hear bad news and doesn’t respect critics, it’s hard to fix what is wrong.
In his first term the big question was whether he was a moderate or triangulate after the 2010 “shellacking.” He kept lunging left. Now evidence suggests he simply lacks the skill set and mindset to do anything other than what he’s been doing up to now. Yes, he’s a liberal ideologue. But basically he’s just out of his depth.