News / USA

US Political Forecast: More Gridlock

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, July 1, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, July 1, 2014.

Americans are off to the beach, the mountains and even local rooftops to celebrate our 238th birthday. But when it comes to our current political landscape, it’s hard to find much to celebrate.

Washington remains mired in political gridlock and the outlook for the remainder of the Obama presidency is far from rosy. The latest poll numbers for President Barack Obama no doubt depress even his most loyal Democratic supporters.  In the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, only 40 percent approve of his performance. Quinnipiac also asked more than 1,400 voters nationwide who has been the worst president since World War II and, unfortunately for the White House, Obama was at the top (or bottom, depending how you look at it) of the list.

Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said Obama was the worst president in this period, followed by former President George W. Bush at 28 percent and former President Richard Nixon with 13 percent. If you are old enough to have lived through the Watergate period of the 1970s, it’s kind of amazing to see that voters today place not one but two presidents below him on the ratings scale.  Of course, it’s always wise to remember what pollsters say, that these surveys are nothing more than a snapshot in time often prone to wild swings as the years go by. Bush surely hopes that is the case. Obama may be having some similar thoughts as well.

So who do people rate as the best presidents post-World War II? The Quinnipiac survey found former President Ronald Reagan in the top spot with 35 percent, followed by former President Bill Clinton at 18 percent and former President John Kennedy at 15 percent. Clinton in particular remains an amazing political phenomenon, a proverbial cat with nine lives who rivals Lazarus with his ability to rise from the political dead.

Clinton left office in early 2001, but he remains a potent force on the U.S. political scene today and could be an enormous help if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides to run for president in 2016. Remember, Clinton came out of nowhere to win the 1992 Democratic Party nomination, beating an incumbent president (George H.W. Bush) who had led the country to a decisive military victory in the first Gulf War. Clinton then survived the Republican Revolution of 1994 to bounce back and win re-election in 1996. 

Most amazing of all was that Clinton’s popularity actually grew once he left office despite the fact he was only the second U.S. president impeached by Congress – later acquitted by the Senate.

Hardening positions and tough rhetoric

The political clashes of the 1990s between the likes of Bill Clinton and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich are starting to look like the good old days compared to what is happening now. Obama is increasingly frustrated with Republicans efforts to either block his agenda in Congress or not act on it, with immigration reform being the latest example. House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans intend to sue the president, and though the specifics aren’t clear yet, the thrust appears to be an effort to stop the president from acting unilaterally through executive orders.

Obama has been highlighting the differences in recent speeches. He told a crowd in Minneapolis that Republicans "aren’t doing anything and then they are mad that I am doing something." The president seems intent on taking some action on the immigration front, especially in light of the situation on the southern border and the influx of tens of thousands of young illegal immigrants, many from Central America. Obama seemed to dare Republican congressional leaders to try and stop him during a recent speech in Washington with a simple challenge: “So sue me.”

Republicans will no doubt use this tougher rhetoric as fodder to drive conservatives to the polls this November for the midterm congressional elections.  Conservative talk show hosts and some activists have long driven a narrative that the Obama administration’s unilateral actions fit nicely into the category of “an imperial presidency”, a possible clarion call to Tea Party supporters and Obama critics to turn out in big numbers in November.

Focus on the Midterms

Given that the chances for agreement on substantial legislation in Congress are now fleeting, both sides are ramping up their arguments for midterm voters.  Democrats start with a huge disadvantage.  A lot of their folks are much less inclined to turn out in midterm congressional elections than they are for a presidential contest. 

Obama and other Democrats are now heavily focused on encouraging core Democratic supporters, especially what they like to call the “rising electorate”, to get off their rumps and out to the polls in November.  That rising electorate includes younger voters, especially unmarried women, as well as Hispanic and Asian-American voters.  In fact, many Democrats see motivating younger unmarried women as the key to boosting turnout enough that it could save their majority in the U.S. Senate.

There is general consensus among political analysts and pundit-types that Republicans appear to have a big advantage in holding on to their majority in the House of Representatives. In fact, by some estimates, they could add seats. The real battle is for control of the Senate, where 36 of the 100 seats are at stake. Republicans need to gain six Democratic seats to reclaim a majority.  That would normally be a tall order in any election year but this year there are far more Democratic seats at stake than Republican, and many of the Democratic seats are in states where Republicans have an advantage. 

Most analysts right now give the Republicans an excellent chance of winning the six seats they need.  It may be close in the end, but most of the experts say that Democratic control of the Senate is now teetering on a knife’s edge.

Foreign policy impact

One of the main drivers of Obama’s weakening approval numbers is declining support for his handling of foreign policy. A couple of recent polls have it down to only 37 percent, undoubtedly due in part to what has been taking place in Iraq, Ukraine and Afghanistan. The latest Quinnipiac poll found that 57 percent of those asked disapproved of the president’s handling of Iraq. But in the same poll, 51 percent also blamed George W. Bush more than Obama for the current situation in Iraq and 61 percent now say it was wrong for the U.S. to have invaded back in 2003. As to further U.S. involvement in Iraq, Americans say it is not in the national interest by a margin of 56 to 39 percent.

Obama gets better marks on his handling of Afghanistan.  Forty-six percent say the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is “about right”, 26 percent say it is too fast and 20 percent say it’s not fast enough.

Foreign policy had been one of the president’s strengths and one of the reasons he won re-election two years ago. But now poor presidential approval ratings on both foreign policy and the economy could hurt Democrats at the polls this November. 

Analysts have long pointed out that there is usually a connection between presidential approval ratings and the fate of the president’s party in midterm elections. Right now, things are not looking good for the president or for Democrats in November, and time is running out to try to alter the political landscape.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: meanbill from: USA
July 04, 2014 11:14 AM
POLITICAL GRIDLOCK means democracy is working, doesn't it?..... You don't have political gridlock in communist countries, Socialist countries, Dictatorships, or Monarchies, do you?.... Just call it Democracy at work, where all side get to voice their opinions, and their vocal opinions mean something, doesn't it?
In Response

by: Faubet from: France
July 04, 2014 5:18 PM
Hi there,
Hopefully gridlocks exists even in socialist countries like France, Germany,Italy when they have a socialist govt, as well as in Monarchies like UK,Spain,Denmark or Belgium.
You cannot compareSocialist countries or Monarchies to Dictatorships or communist countries

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs