Gulf Spill, Immigration, Markets Drag Obama Down in Polls

Friday, 28 May 2010 10:31 AM

 

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President Obama's job-approval rating just hit an all-time low. And there's a pattern behind the trifecta of issues that are driving the drop — the oil spill, the Arizona immigration-policing law, and the fallout from the Greek crisis.

After four months of hovering between a low of 46 percent approval and a high of 49 percent, Obama just fell to 42 percent in the daily Rasmussen polls. What's hurting him, and why?

The president originally seized on each of these issues to make populist political hay. But then the problem wouldn't go away — and voters began to realize that Obama is, in fact, the president and (logically enough) started giving him much of the blame.

When oil started to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, Obama seized the opportunity for a partisan attack — blaming Republicans who had chanted, "Drill, baby, drill," the whole summer of 2008 as high gasoline prices gave John McCain's candidacy new steam.

Even though the president had himself, with lamentable timing, moved to allow expanded drilling a few weeks before the rig exploded, the impetus for drilling was clearly seen as Republican, and the disaster hurt Republican ratings. Obama couldn't resist also piling populist scorn on British Petroleum, lambasting big oil for the spill.

But then the leak didn't stop — and the slick kept heading to shore. Now the public is wondering why it's seen no presidential action to stop the spill.

As the oil seeps onto the beaches of Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, it also seeps into Obama's poll numbers and drags them down. His press conference yesterday was a clear effort to look decisive and effective and stop the bleeding — but it came awfully late in the crisis.

As soon as Arizona passed its law authorizing cops to pick up illegal immigrants, Obama jumped on the issue, trying to use it to drive up Latino turnout for Democrats later this year. But it became clear that the majority of Americans strongly backs the law — and now he's sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to stop the bleeding in his polls.

Then there's the stock market.

After the crash of 2008, Obama was quick to blame banks and other big businesses for their irresponsible behavior and then to take credit for averting a global collapse in the aftermath. So when Greece exploded due to its top-heavy debt load and dragged the market below 10,000, people wondered if Obama's populist treatment of the financial markets and his big spending and borrowing were subjecting America to economic peril.

When Moody's announces that it is considering downgrading the credit rating of the United States — the richest nation, by far, on Earth — it raises understandable alarm.

Of course, Obama's polls will rise and fall in the weeks, months, and years ahead; today's 42 percent may prove a long-forgotten blip. But it's a bit like noticing the line of seaweed on the beach. The tide comes in and goes out — but the seaweed marks where it will likely return to.

Look at it this way: Obama got 52 percent of the vote in 2008 — so his 42 percent approval means that one in five of his voters has turned on him.

And it's a traumatic event for someone who voted for Obama and had stuck with him since, saying he approved of the president's policies, to finally turn and say he doesn't approve. That voter may go back to approving of his president again — but it gets easier and easier to voice disapproval.

Especially if the oil keeps spilling, the illegals keep coming — and the market keeps tanking.

© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann

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