News / USA

Obama’s Low Approval Hurting Democrats

Obama's Declining Approval Could Impact Midterm Electionsi
Jim Malone
March 19, 2014 8:54 PM
President Barack Obama’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine will no doubt affect how the public views his leadership on key U.S. foreign policy issues. Several public opinion surveys show the president’s approval rating has reached new lows and that could have a significant impact on midterm congressional elections in November. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
President Barack Obama’s public approval ratings have hit new lows in recent weeks, sparking fears among Democrats about their chances in the November midterm congressional elections.  Historically speaking, two-term presidents experience losses in midterm congressional elections.  It’s usually not a question of if, but how many?  This year the stakes are especially high because Republicans believe they have an excellent chance of wresting control of the Senate from Democrats, which would have enormous political implications for the final two years of the Obama presidency.

It’s still too early to know what impact the crisis in Ukraine is having on Obama’s ratings.  His recent drop in the polls seems tied to concerns about the economy and lingering problems with his signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act.  Republicans haven’t been shy about hammering the president on his handling of Ukraine, feeding a narrative they have been pushing for some time now about what they see as the general weakness of the Obama foreign policy approach and a negative impact on the image of the U.S. abroad.

Election year worries

The recent results of a special congressional election in Florida excited Republicans and sparked new worries among Democrats about what may transpire in November.  Republican David Jolly won a narrow victory over Democrat Alex Sink and his victory confirmed for some the Republican strategy of focusing in on the unpopularity of the health care law.  Democrats were hoping their strategy of focusing on fixes to the controversial law would be enough to neutralize it in competitive races this year, but the Florida race seems to suggest that may not be enough.

Democrats are also worried about the president’s stubbornly weak approval ratings, hovering in most surveys in the low 40-percent area.  That is usually an indicator of trouble for the president’s party in competitive midterm races and it also means the White House will be limiting Obama’s campaign appearances in states and congressional districts where Republicans are strong.  In short, if Democrats are to keep their majority in the Senate they will probably want to keep the president out of those Red-leaning Republican states where Democratic candidates will be looking to put some distance between themselves and the president.  Carroll Doherty is Director of Political Research at the Pew Research Center in Washington.  “He is at best in the low 40 percent range for job approval, not a good sign for an incumbent president in the sixth year who wants to gain seats in Congress.”

Congressional Democrats have taken note of the president’s weakening approval ratings and are already calibrating what it may mean for their re-election hopes in November, says analyst John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center.  “It is the area where presidents worry and they worry about midterm elections and that their popularity will affect the party and ultimately hurt his majority in the Congress.”

Voter turnout key factor in November

Another lesson from the recent Florida race is who turned out to vote.  Democrats did not get their supporters out to the polls as they had hoped while Republicans were able to do a better job of firing up their base, in large part because of opposition to Obamacare.  Most experts already see a Republican advantage in this year’s midterm elections because the voter turnout in non-presidential election years tends to skew toward older white voters, a strong constituency for the Republicans.  The younger, more female and more ethnically diverse electorate that helped to elect Barack Obama twice in 2008 and 2012 is not likely to show up in similar strength this year, and that has Democrats scrambling to find ways to motivate their core supporters.

Carroll Doherty with Pew says Democrats have a chance to be competitive in November if they can find a way to somehow cut into the Republican advantage on turnout, according to the latest research he’s seen.  “What it is showing is that there is no wave election for the Republicans or the Democrats at this point.  It looks pretty even, which means that the turnout is going to be a big factor and Republicans in midterms do pretty well in turnout.”

Most experts now say the Democrats have a tough slog to try to retake the House.  They would need a pickup of 17 seats in the 435-seat House and that is not looking very likely.  The real battle remains the Senate where a gain of six Republican seats would give them a narrow majority in the Senate.  Republican control of both the House and the Senate in the final two years of the Obama presidency would likely be a recipe for even tighter gridlock than we have seen in the past four years.  Fortier says even if Republicans only come close to winning control of the Senate, the die may be cast for the remainder of the Obama presidency.  “I think either way we are facing divided government for the rest of President Obama’s term and that means either a lot of conflict or an occasional issue where they can find some sort of compromise.”

One issue for hoped-for compromise is immigration reform, something even some Republicans could help them expand their base of support beyond older white voters.  But so far it’s unclear if Republicans are willing to take a chance on an issue that could alienate their conservative supporters during an election year.

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Comment Sorting
by: Not Again from: Canada
March 19, 2014 3:26 PM
Pres Obama can't be blamed for all the problems he has faced: be it difficulties in getting compromises in both legislative houses; or getting the affordable care launched smoothly; or the issues at the IRS regarding the patriot/pro US organizations that were selected for go slow/rejection of applications re the tax free status; or some of the difficult to understand defense cuts; or some of the issues faced with NATO allies failing to close ranks; or chaining the rules re US aid and damaging the US Merchant fleets, putting shippers, mariners, shipbuilders, ship repairers, chandlers, even farmers at risk, etc. The affordable care act should have been an issue of general positive consensus and joyful acceptance by all. On issues of foreign policy, it is my view, some errors have been made; the biggest one is still the tragedy at Bengazi; the loss of courageous US citizens to terrorists, has no pale; not just because it occurred, but because absolutely no attempt was made to deploy adequate resources at the time, nor later to go after the terrorists; the terrorists were allowed to escape without a scratch. This incident was further tainted by the failure to fully investigate, disclose, address the horrendous tragic incident; the subsequent negative foreign policy issues were: the lack of prompt readjustment to the Egyptian crisis; followed by the imaginary red line, on the horrendous and catasthropic humanitarian disater taking place in Syria, and a few others. After Bengazi, the polls showed a free fall in confidence in the administration once the conspiratorial theories started to emerge. It is my opinion, that the Bengazi incident will have a lasting negative effect on the Presidency, the Democratic party, and unfortunately, it will put a serious negative aspect on the aspirations of Mrs. Clinton, should she eventually decide to run for the presidency; a very bad situation, if she does not run successfuly, because of the open wounds left by Bengazi. The number of conspiratorial theories, on Bengazi, continues to grow; because, a full, thorough, detailed, impartial investigation has not been carried out; which needs to be thourough, in- camera, and involve seasoned members of both parties, both houses, and a few impartial expert/observers, to clearly address fact from fiction; and a clear, resoned path, needs to be established as to how this type of error will be prevented, by concrete steps/policies, in the future; and as to how and what efforts will be taken to deliver justice onto the terrorists, and so on. Only a detailed understanding of all aspects may lead to a resolution of the negative situation, and the negative aura, the unresolved Bengazi tragedy has caused.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
March 19, 2014 1:10 PM
Aggrey of Ghana once said, "he or she who is not proud of his color is not worthy to live." Obama's low rating could be a function of his own misrepresentation of himself. As an African, I learn English language as a second language. I am proud that I can speak the English language and dare an Englishman to speak my own language. They want me to twist my tongue and speak it in their diphthong, but that is hurting me. I used to think I was doing myself some favor to try harder, until I found out what Aggrey said concerning that.

So I became proud of myself and stopped trying. If as an African I throw away my African-ness and become more American, European or Asian than what I am, then I should have myself to blame for fouling up my chances of bringing my God-given variety into the world whose beauty is in variety. Bottom line is, there is no way Obama could have succeeded in the falsehood he lives in; for whereas he's supposed to bring the African tinge to the American blend, he chose to whitewash everything to become gaudy. He is failing because he is lacking in originality; period.
In Response

by: Lou from: Atlanta
March 20, 2014 11:38 AM
More Black Americans are out of work today than anytime in the last 40 years.

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