COMMENTARY | Friday’s Gallup Poll reports that the job approval rating for President Obama is now matching his all-time low at 41 percent. Barack Obama enjoys a 50 percent disapproval rating, according to the same poll. He has been at 41 percent twice before during his presidency.
Some of the reasons that Obama is flirting with the dreaded 30s, in which any American president finds himself virtually certain of losing a bid for reelection, is obvious. The economy remains anemic. The wars in the Middle East grind on, including the new one in Libya, with no end in sight. The president’s own personality has not lent itself to popularity either.
However, a new and rather ominous development, now growing because of the budget deal, is the discontent Obama is feeling on his left. People who had supported the president are citing too many broken promises and too many compromises with the right as reasons for their alienation from the man they were enthusiastic about just two years ago.
Some are so upset that they are looking for someone to run against Obama in the primaries. So far, none of the usual candidates for such a run — Dean, Kucinich, Feingold — are leaving that door open.
But the fact that it is being talked about and that liberal members of Congress are privately expressing the wish that Obama would just go away should be troubling to the president.
Even if no serious primary opponent can be found, which in any case would be unlikely to deny the president the nomination, the atmospherics on the left are not good from Obama’s standpoint. A lot of liberals could stay at home in 2012, having no enthusiasm to turn out and vote for the man who has proved to be so disappointing. A third party run, say Ralph Nader again, could pick up some traction, doing to Obama what Ross Perot did to the first President Bush, siphoning away voters and paving the way for a GOP victory.
Obama is now in the unenviable position of having to shore up his base. He will have to do so by not only reassuring them that he really is not weak kneed in response to Republican pressure but that any alternative to him would be too unacceptable to contemplate. That approach is very risky, as it tends to alienate independent voters he will need to win.
Sources: Obama Job Approval at 41%, Tying His Low, Jeffrey M. Jones, The Gallup Organization, April 15, 2011
Democrats’ Disgust With Obama, Patricia Murphey, the Daily Beast, April 15, 2011