Although there is a fairly massive caveat there:
The honeymoon is over, a national poll will signal tomorrow as President Obama’s job approval stumbles to about 50 percent over the lack of improvement with the crippled economy.
The sobering numbers come as the president backpedals from two prime-time gaffes – one comparing his bowling score to a Special Olympian and another awkwardly laughing about the economy, which prompted Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” to ask “are you punch-drunk?”
Pollster John Zogby said his poll out in the morning will show Americans split on the president’s performance. He said the score factors out to “about 50-50.”
“About” in this context could mean anything from 48% to 54%, and if it isn’t 50% it’ll be closer to the latter. The RCP average implies that this is the first poll that Zogby’s doing for President Obama’s approval ratings, so we don’t know whether he’s looking at likely voters, or adult ones. Although it should be noted that a 50 approval rating from adult voters wouldn’t be bad news for the President: it’d be the kind of catastrophic news that makes people start exploratory committees.
Truthfully, the most important question here is not what the actual numbers are, so much as how the administration is going to react to them. One common statement that we’ve been hearing lately has been one or another variation of “no matter how his policies are being received, the President himself remains popular.” Which is true, even if you believe that Zogby’s poll is accurate (and represents at least registered voters). An 50% approval rating is quite respectable.
For a human being.
The question thus becomes, Is the President prepared to govern as a human being? – because if he is, there will have to be some changes made to his operating style. To begin with, this nonsense of “I won” will have to be completely banished from Obama’s administrative philosophy. 50% Presidents don’t get to rule as philosopher-kings. Second, there’s a whole list of White House staffers who need to be publicly cured of their bad habit of publicly blaming every problem under the sun on either the Republican party or the previous administration. 50% Presidents don’t get to have an unlimited number of scapegoats. And, of course, the President will need to either wrest control over his agenda away from his colleagues in Congress, or else admit that he’s lost that control, and start building a new coalition to push his policy agenda. 50% Presidents need to actually accomplish things that the populace likes if they want to stay 50% Presidents. Alternatively, the Obama administration could just hope that this was an outlier, and keep doing what they were doing already without making any changes. That might work.
It’ll certainly determine very quickly whether the Zogby poll was an outlier.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.