Obama Down, Hillary Up


A new Quinnipiac poll puts Barack Obama at the worst approval numbers of his presidency, discovering that “American voters disapprove 48 – 42 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing and say 50 – 41 percent he does not deserve to be re-elected in 2012, both all-time lows.” 

He still gets 80% approval from Democrats, while only 9% of Republicans approve.  Those are disturbingly soft approval and hard disapproval numbers from the expected constituencies, but the real killer is independents, who disapprove by 50-39 percent.

At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hit an all-time high in approval ratings, according to a new Gallup poll.  She has 66-31% approval, in a poll that rates Obama much higher than Quinnipiac but still has him stuck behind her at 54-43%.  She gets 92% support from Democrats, 40% from Republicans, and 62% from independents.

Of course, any such poll comparison is a fruit salad of apples and oranges.  The jobs of President and Secretary of State are not equivalent.  The Gallup poll asked for approval of Clinton’s job as SecState, not how the respondents think she would be doing in the Oval Office.  Certainly the President is held accountable for far more than any other member of his Administration.  A lot of things are going very badly right now, and very few of them can be laid at the feet of Hillary Clinton.

Interestingly, the one decision Hillary Clinton is strongly associated with, the war in Libya, earns 47-37% approval from Gallup, but 47-41% disapproval from Quinnipiac.  I’ll leave it to the polling wonks to dissect the differences in methodology and sampling between Gallup and Quinnipiac, but one of the most obvious differences is that Gallup polled the war on March 21, while the Quinnipiac polled on March 28.  We might reasonably conclude that Americans have mixed feelings about the engagement, and those opinions are shifting rapidly as news comes in from the battlefield.

How do we square that ambivalence, and the implication that approval for the Libyan intervention is actually falling, with the rising popularity of Hillary Clinton?  The obvious conclusion is that what the voters have come to dislike the most about Obama is his indecisiveness and duplicity.  The image of endless vacations and rounds of golf, and long stretches of embarrassing silence during major world and domestic events, has settled in.  Clinton, on the other hand, has a reputation for aggressiveness and decisiveness, which even her negative caricatures tend to echo.

The President came into office with a disastrous agenda, which he pushed extremely hard – remember all the arm-twisting behind the scenes when he rammed ObamaCare through, and the blizzard of public appearances that left even his supporters groaning when they couldn’t get him off their TV screens?  Then the 2010 midterms hit, and it became clear that Obama has no idea how to deal with principled opposition, or handle the responsibilities of his office.  Everything he says now is either an insult to those who disagree, or a nearly psychotic break with reality, such as his new tactic of claiming that he hasn’t done anything to suppress domestic oil production.

Americans have dual expectations of their President.  They’re looking for leadership, but they also (correctly) view him as an employee, with certain job responsibilities that aren’t much fun.  It’s not surprising they would look favorably on someone who demonstrates the decisiveness Obama lacks, and appears to be working hard at an unpleasant job. 

It’s interesting to note that the Gallup poll was taken only days after Hillary announced she would have no part of a second Obama Administration.  Hillary’s approval numbers are not just a reflection of support for her, but also a slam at her boss, who appears to frustrate and disgust her with increasing intensity.