With a headline titled “Obama faces growing credibility crisis,” this Financial Times story sounds like man bites dog territory. But scroll down a couple of paragraphs for its repercussions: could the Senate be in play as well as Congress?
Robert Gibbs, Barack Obama’s chief spokesman, got into hot water this week for daring to speak the truth — that the Democrats could lose control of the House of Representatives in November. But it could be even worse than that.
Contrary to pretty much every projection until now, Democratic control of the Senate is also starting to coming into question. While Mr Obama’s approval ratings have continued to fall, and now hover at dangerously close to 40 per cent according an ABC-Washington Post poll published on Tuesday, the fate of his former colleagues in the Senate looks even worse.
In the past few days polls have shown Republican challengers taking the lead over previously safe Democratic incumbents, such as Barbara Boxer in California and Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. Indeed, given the uniformly negative direction in the numbers, it is now quite possible the Republicans could win the Senate seats formerly held by both President Obama in Illinois, and Joe Biden, vice-president, in Delaware.
Add to that the continuing woes of Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic majority leader, in Nevada, where the Republican party’s recent nomination of Sharron Angle, a far-right and highly eccentric Tea Party supporter, appear to have had no positive effect on Mr Reid’s prospects, and the Grand Old party has a good shot at taking control of both houses of Congress. Worse for Mr Obama, political scientists say that at this stage in the calendar, there is almost nothing he can do about it.
“If you ask me where the silver lining is for President Obama, I have to say I cannot see one,” says Bill Galston, a former Clinton official, who has been predicting for months the Democrats could lose the House. “Just as BP’s failure to cap the well has been so damaging, Obama’s failure to cap unemployment will be his undoing. There is nothing he can do to affect the jobless rate before November.”
The direction of the data could hardly be worse. According to Democracy Corps, a group headed by Stanley Greenberg, a liberal pollster who is a close friend of Rahm Emanuel, Mr Obama’s chief of staff, a majority of US citizens see Mr Obama as “too liberal”.
Astonishingly, 55 per cent of citizens think Mr Obama is a “socialist” against only 39 per cent who do not share that diagnosis. The same poll shows 48 per cent support for Republicans against just 42 per cent for Democrats. The numbers are eerily similar to 2006, except that it was George W. Bush’s Republicans who were on the receiving end four years ago.
And like 2006, the Macaca moments keep piling up — except that again they’re occurring on the opposite side of the aisle.
No wonder some of Obama’s biggest boosters on the left are starting to write off the next two years, and simply praying he’ll coast through 2012 on his incumbency.
Fortunately, despite all of the stress he’s under, the president is not resting, despite the myriad of crises he faces, created, and/or isn’t letting go to waste: