Sept. 30, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

President Obama, Welcome to Bush’s World

It’s true that support for the health care reform measure has inched up since March (from 36 percent to a still underwhelming 40 percent in the June NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey), but the gain is both misleading and irrelevant if it doesn’t improve the standing of Democratic officeholders.

Gallup’s Lydia Saad, writing on her firm’s June 11-13 poll with USA Today, notes that support for the reform bill fell from 47 percent in March to 45 percent in April but rose to 49 percent in June. She calls the recent uptick “not statistically significant.”

She also notes the increase in support for the measure came primarily from Republicans (up from 10 percent to 17 percent), while support of independents was flat (41 percent approve in April compared with 43 percent support in March) and support among Democrats actually slipped 5 points. Those Republicans, of course, aren’t likely to vote Democratic in the fall.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey’s other poll numbers confirm the growing importance of the federal deficit in voters’ minds, the low opinion that voters hold of both parties and the increased inclination of registered voters to support Republican candidates in the 2010 midterm elections.

The poll also found the overall mood of the public continues to erode, with 29 percent of respondents saying the nation is “generally headed in the right direction” and 62 percent saying “things are off on the wrong track” — about where it was in December 2008, shortly after the presidential election.

Democratic strategists are deluding themselves if they believe that passing a financial reform bill or a small-business measure will change the public’s mood. It won’t. Voters won’t care by the time November rolls around unless their mood brightens.

If bad news continues in our nation’s newspapers and on the evening news, whether about jobs and the economy, foreign policy or the environment, the public will quickly discount Democratic achievements on Capitol Hill as ineffectual and insufficient.

That’s why Republicans were punished in 2006 and 2008, and it’s why Democrats are headed for the same fate. The president needs some good news. Unfortunately for him and his party, time is running out, and tomorrow’s news is largely beyond their control.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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